Bavuma confident South Africa can make Cricket World Cup history as de Kock bows out

Bavuma leads a powerful team diminished only slightly by the absence of fast bowlers Anrich Nortje and Sisanda Magala, who failed fitness tests before the squad left for India.
South Africa cricket team celebrates their 3-2 series wine against Australia at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 17, 2023.  (Photo | AP)
South Africa cricket team celebrates their 3-2 series wine against Australia at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 17, 2023. (Photo | AP)

Quinton de Kock will make a last hurrah at the Cricket World Cup in India starting next week as part of an in-form South Africa team which will lean on his experience and a pace-heavy bowling attack as it attempts to win the tournament for the first time.

At 30, the wicketkeeper-batsman has already retired from test cricket and this will be his one-day international swansong.

It could also be a crowning moment in his career if South Africa can maintain the form that took them from 2-0 down to beat Australia 3-2 in a recent ODI series.

South Africa's best result at the 50-over World Cup has been three semifinal appearances.

Temba Bavuma will again captain South Africa and can rely on the counsel of players such as de Kock, who has captained the Proteas in all three formats. Bavuma leads a powerful team diminished only slightly by the absence of fast bowlers Anrich Nortje and Sisanda Magala, who failed fitness tests before the squad left for India.

Both played in the series against Australia but Nortje has been forced out with a back issue, having also missed the 2019 World Cup with a thumb injury, while Magala has a knee problem.

Paceman Lizaad Williams and allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo have been called up in their place in a squad that also includes fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi and Gerald Coetzee.

“It’s great having a mix of experienced players and players who will be competing in their first 50-over World Cup,” Proteas coach Rob Walter said. “You get that sort of exuberance or excitement to be doing something for the first time.

“We have endeavoured to curate a well-balanced group of players and skill that will allow us to effectively adapt to the conditions in India. Our strength has been fast bowling and we want to be able to have four high-quality fast bowlers in the park in most situations.”

South Africa’s history in limited overs World Cups has not always been a happy one. They have had no success in the 50-over World Cup — which they hosted in 2003 — and while they staged the first T20 World Cup in 2007, they also have never won it. In its last edition, they were beaten by the Netherlands.

Bavuma remembers that defeat and its fallout and uses it to harden his determination to succeed in India this time.

“The emotion that was attached to that day and everything that happened around it, I think that’s subsided from my side,” Bavuma said. “I used that emotion as motivation and really tried to forge a new way for myself within my cricketing career.

“If I look back now, since that day things have been going well for myself but also for the team. I was laughing about it. There’s no negative emotions or trauma coming back here.”

Bavuma sees a new South Africa team: stronger, better-balanced and more focused. He says players have more belief in each other and that will be critical over the six weeks of the World Cup when, inevitably, all teams will be tested.

“The way we’ve been going about our business this year, it has been in contrast to what people have known us as a team,” he said. “We spoke a lot about being bold, being fearless, being positive and always looking for moments to move the game in our favor."

South Africa plays its first match at the World Cup on Oct. 7 against Sri Lanka, followed by an Australia rematch on Oct. 12.

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