Should AB de Villiers come out of retirement and join South Africa’s T20I setup, it could force some changes in their batting line-up.
South Africa have some major decisions to make ahead of the T20 World Cup as they filter out their best batsmen in the top six. Having tried as many as 17 batsmen in T20Is in the top six since the start of 2020, it’s a tough ask. Here’s a look at what their best top six could look like for the T20 World Cup.
Quinton de Kock
Probably the only player whose position in the batting order is cemented, Quinton de Kock’s powerplay intent against pace makes him one of the most dangerous openers in the world. Teams will want to stifle him with spin, which is where the role of his partner becomes really crucial. Since the start 2020, de Kock has stuck his T20I runs at a strike rate of 170.65.
Faf du Plessis
On paper, there are at least four contenders fighting for this spot: Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and Janneman Malan. With de Kock’s range restricted against spin, in particular off-spin, his partner should ideally be able to take on spinners in the powerplay. Du Plessis had a good season at CSK, showing good intent in the powerplay overs and as such pips the other three – two of whom (Markram and Malan) have question marks hanging over their head in terms of ability to tackle spin – to the second opener’s slot.
Temba Bavuma (captain)
Bavuma’s range outside the powerplay overs, especially in clearing the bigger boundaries is a question mark. However, since he is a lock in the team as captain, he is best utilised in this line-up to tackle the spinners in the middle overs. This means that his position at No.3 isn’t set in stone and it could interchange with Rassie van der Dussen based on when the opening partnership is broken. Bavuma is the best player of spin in this line-up and if he can help Proteas wade through the tricky middle overs period, that’s the biggest value he can add.
Rassie van der Dussen
Terrific against pace, van der Dussen is South Africa’s leading run-scorer in T20Is since the start of 2019. He can switch gears remarkably but can be tied down by quality spinners too. It makes his partner’s role crucial, but with the kind of players at their disposal, van der Dussen should be given a free hand to go after the pacers. He likes to settle in pretty well before going hard, and it’s something South Africa will have to nudge him about, especially if AB de Villiers is to come below him.
AB de Villiers
De Villiers showed in the IPL that he is best used in the second half of the innings and South Africa, like RCB, have that luxury with the top-order options they have. De Villiers at No.5 can dictate the middle and death overs, increasing the potency of South Africa’s batting line-up multiple times. The perception is that he can be tied down by spin, and while that’s true to an extent, there’s no denying that the margin for error for these spinners is really low if they are to get away from de Villiers.
This is arguably the biggest conundrum South Africa face for the T20 World Cup – to play David Miller or Heinrich Klaasen. There’s a fair argument to be made for both, with both exceptional in the death overs once set. Miller breaks the monotony of right-handers in the middle-order, but like the two batsmen above him, carries a bit of a weakness against spin. South Africa need to ensure they have de Villiers protected from all ends, with a complete freewheeling role for their superstar.
To complement him best, they need someone really good against spin partnering him and Klaasen, who can hit pace and spin and is equally good in the death, is a better pick, if only slightly. He has started showing some of his franchise potential at international level and it’s something South Africa need to persist with.
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