South Africa won their only ICC Trophy, the inaugural ICC Mini World Cup -- now known as the Champions Trophy -- in 1998 in Bangladesh, where they arrived yesterday to take part in the ICC World Twenty20.
Nonetheless, they do have an astonishing track record of being the form team in world cups and then throwing it all away at the knockout stage. That has earned them the unwanted tag of chokers and the unavoidable staple question at pre-tournament press conferences.
“You can take it anyway you want, but we have to be playing our best cricket every day,” said South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis in a press conference at a Dhaka hotel after the team's arrival in the city yesterday. “So when it comes to, as you say choking, for me its simple -- you need to make sure that you give yourself the best opportunity by playing well. As long as the other team plays better cricket I can accept that, but not if you don't give your best.”
South Africa have a great bowling attack, but their weakness may be their spinners. “We were in Sri Lanka (last year) and beat Sri Lanka, who have really good spinners. We were in Dubai and we beat Pakistan who also have very good spinners.
“Imran Tahir has done very well for us. It's not required to go for four runs an over because he takes wickets and that is very important for a captain. We have got JP Duminy, and he has been doing very well as a back-up spinner. When you come to Bangladesh it's not always just spin, fast bowlers do well here too and we have got a good attack when it comes to fast bowlers. For me it is about adjusting to these conditions,” said Du Plessis.
The batting is no less potent, with tyros such as Quinton de Kock and David Miller in the side, as well as the all-round brilliance of AB de Villiers. “I think our whole batting line-up, like most of the tournament's other teams, has got destructive hitters. AB has proven so many times in IPL cricket how destructive he can be. So is Miller. And even other guys, guys like Hashim Amla who are under the radar, are quality batsmen.”
Amla himself was not too fussed about translating his form in the longer forms into T20 cricket. “I played a domestic T20 series back home, and things went pretty well for me.
The basic of the game stays the same, but a few more shots are played. Players like me genrally come in at the top of the order with the hitters coming lower down. If you look around the world there are batsman like (Kumar) Sangakkara and (Mahela) Jayawardene -- both of whom are orthodox batsmen but outstanding T20 batsmen as well,” Amla said.
South Africa are a team known for their discipline and attention to detail. That they live inside a bubble of their own was proven when pacer Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who is likely to be a fringe performer in this tournament, was asked about the tournament's opening game which was taking place as he was talking to the press.
“There's a match going on now?” he asked incredulously about the tournament's opener between Bangladesh and Afghanistan.