Proteas focused on World Cup goals in West Indies despite player absences for T20I

Proteas focused on World Cup goals in West Indies despite player absences for T20I
Rassie van der Dussen of the Proteas during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 against Sri Lanka at Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, India. 7 October 2023. (Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images)

Seven of the 15-player squad readying to take on West Indies in a three-match T20I series are not part of the World Cup squad. Nonetheless, everyone is rallying together for the greater good.

The Proteas take on West Indies in a three-match T20I series starting on Thursday evening. While it is an official bilateral series, it was initially intended to serve a dual purpose of warm-up matches with the T20 World Cup coming into sharp focus.

That has been thrown out the window with several Proteas stars, including skipper Aiden Markram currently in India, fighting for the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy.

It’s a strange situation. Rassie van der Dussen, has been made captain of the side in Markram’s absence, even though the 35-year-old is not part of the World Cup squad.

He, however, believes there’s “nothing to prove” on this tour for him. Currently one of only two players in the world with over 1,000 runs this year in T20 cricket, it’s understandable why Van der Dussen feels that way.

“I don’t feel like I need to prove anything,” he said from Jamaica on Wednesday. “It’s pretty standard what I’m about as a cricketer.

“The coach has to pick a World Cup squad and there’s only 15 guys that can go.

“He has to come up with combinations that he feels gives us the best chance and as a greater squad and as a country, that’s what it’s all about.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Success of Proteas’ T20 World Cup campaign lies in their explosive batting lineup

Van der Dussen, in his new leadership role, has rallied the side together for the greater cause of winning a first World Cup trophy, despite seven of the 15 players in the West Indies not being part of next month’s tournament squad.

“I’m not in a situation where I haven’t played a lot of cricket or even international T20s, being captain, yes, that’s a new challenge for me,” he said.

“I will, from my side, try to instil what I think is important, what I think can help the guys going to the World Cup and put in a performance there.

“It’s a greater squad, it’s a greater team — in terms of the backroom staff, Cricket South Africa — we’re all fighting towards the same goal.

“The important thing is for everyone to give their input and trust the guys who have been entrusted in doing a job for us.”

Ryan Rickelton, Proteas

Ryan Rickelton in action for the Lions at St Georges Park in Gqeberha. 17 April 2024. (Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

Greater good

There is still an opportunity for one or two players to put their hands up in this series for a travelling reserve spot, with final squads only needing to be submitted on 25 May.

Nonetheless, the focus in preparation for the series against West Indies has been on getting the players who will be battling in the global showpiece ready for the challenge.

“There’s a certain way we want to play and to nail that down. From a bowling and batting point of view — we know there’s a bigger picture which is the World Cup — there’s no dancing around that.

“These matches will — for the guys going to the World Cup — prove vital. Especially coming back, hopefully, for later in the playoffs because the conditions in the Caribbean are quite similar in all the countries.

“To take as much as we can from a conditions type of mindset and the guys who haven’t been here and obviously to hone in on the skills and the gameplans that we want to execute.

“As a greater squad, we have been playing together for a few years now so luckily for us, it’s not a case of guys coming in and not exactly knowing what the team dynamic is about and the team philosophy and the soul of what we’re trying to achieve.

“From that point of view, it’s not a big problem.

“The opportunity here is for — Ottniel Baartman, Ryan Rickelton — and those types of guys who haven’t been here to get a feel for what’s going on.

Baartman and Rickelton will both make their T20I debuts if they are selected for tomorrow night’s match. The pair are also both in the World Cup squad.

“They’re world-class players in their own right but if the new guys can get in a few performances that will be great,” Van der Dussen said.

Nqaba Peter, Proteas

Nqaba Peter of the Lions during the CSA T20 Challenge final against the Dolphins Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg. 28 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Spinning webs

There’s also a potential debut for exciting young spin wizard Nqaba Peter. The 21-year-old broke through in the CSA T20 Challenge recently, claiming 20 wickets in only 10 matches.

“I foresee a massive future for him,” Van der Dussen said about his Lions teammate. “He’s a good kid, he has a good head on his shoulders.

“The nature of the legspin he bowls is not something you can really teach anyone. It’s almost like a guy that has raw pace.

“He’s come through very quickly in the last few months but in terms of a future for him, he’s a bright prospect. I can see him playing a lot of cricket, hopefully, for a long time for South Africa.” DM

The first T20I starts on 23 May at 9pm South African time at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.


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