By Wisden India Staff in Mirpur
South Africa T20I captain says team will take a call on including Aaron Phangiso for a spin boost after women’s semifinal at the same venue
The only global title to have come South Africa’s way is the ICC KnockOut Trophy, as the Champions Trophy was then called, in 1998 in Bangladesh. The venue was different, the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka, when Hansie Cronje led his team to victory over West Indies. Since then, South Africa has been in the knockout stages of ICC events on a host of occasions without ever threatening to make it to the final.
In his first major tournament as captain, Faf du Plessis has steered his team to the semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20 2014, where it will take on India on Friday (April 4). Even as he recalled that triumph in 1998, du Plessis chose not to look too far ahead this time around.
“We felt a couple of times before that this was our time. India are still regarded as one of the favourites and we have played pretty much through the whole tournament as underdogs,” South Africa’s T20 International captain said. “We have been playing very well as a team and we have had different guys performing in every single game, so we are not relying on someone. It’s important to play the key moments well. It is a high-pressure game and if you make the right decisions on the day, you will be on top.
“I was in school, I was very young,” du Plessis said of the 1998 triumph. “I watched it with a lot of interest over the years, the team in all these tournaments. It’s irrelevant for this group of players to be looking at past performances. These T20 tournaments are all about what you do on the day. It’s important for me and the team to go in with a fresh mindset. We are playing India on the day and we have had huge success against them this year and we are playing some good cricket. We have been through some really tough situations in this (tournament) and been in games that we shouldn’t have probably won, but our resilience and never-say-die attitude has stood us in good stead. We are looking forward to the challenge, we are expecting the pressure. Every game you play for your country, there is always pressure. It’s just about making sure that we do the basics really well.”
Opting to take confidence from having put it past India in both the One-Day International and Test series at home last December, du Plessis did concede that India had handled pressure quite well over the years in major events. “That’s something I must say India has done very well over the past few days. They have always been a team that does well in big tournaments,” he conceded. “We played against them this year and we have been immensely successful against them and we’ll draw confidence from that. Both teams will be equally confident when it comes to the match tomorrow.”
South Africa has had a lot of questions to answer on where AB de Villiers, its most innovative and influential T20I player, bats. Du Plessis said it was more the time and overs left in the game, rather than the position at which he batted, that was significant. “As I have said earlier, I have been pretty clear on that and there’s been a certain time which we feel is the best for AB to come in and bat and that’s definitely not a specific position. He can come in at No. 3 if we have had a good start. Whereas we feel there is a certain part of the game when AB plays at his best when he comes in at that time and I think we have seen from this competition that the two innings he played well was when he walked to the wicket a little bit later.”
Not surprisingly, du Plessis spoke at length on spin, and what role it will play here in Mirpur. “It’s a huge thing. The wicket at Dhaka is completely different to Chittagong. We have played all our games there (Chittagong) and India have played all their games here. From a conditions point of view, they are much more used to them than we are and we have put in some really hard practice on really abrasive surfaces, making sure that we almost over-practised against the ball that is turning too much. I think the wicket is not going to be too bad. I watched the game here recently and the wicket didn’t seem too bad and didn’t seem to spin that much.”
Which begged the question of whether South Africa would fortify the spin department by bringing in Aaron Phangiso, the left-arm spinner. “That decision, we will make tomorrow,” du Plessis replied. “We decided that because there is a game before us (Women’s semifinal between England and South Africa), we will assess how the wicket is playing and if it helps spin, we will definitely look at that option.”