South Africa walk into the World Cup with an opening conundrum ahead of them. While it’s certain that Quinton de Kock will open, South Africa have the option of going with experience of Hashim Amla or the promise of Aiden Markram. And the decision won’t be easy.
Since November 2017, Amla has just one century in the 17 games he’s played in and the worrying sign for the South Africans will be that he’s crossed the fifty-run mark just four times. Markram, in his last three List A games, has scored two half-centuries and a century and looked in good touch in the series against Sri Lanka.
Amla will be featuring in his third World Cup and knows what it takes to deliver at the big stage. “I am hungrier than ever before, there is no doubt about that. I have been blessed to have this shirt for a while but the time off has made me want to come back stronger. This is my third [ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup] so I know what it is all about.
“I have a strong record in England and I have always enjoyed coming here. We have played England recently and had some success against them, I have done well against them too,” he added.
Amla acknowledged that the focus is not trained on South Africa and that’ll help the side thrive. “This year, you don’t see the same big names and that is why the focus is not on us but that has some good in it,” he pointed out. “There has not been much chat about us winning in comparison to the past but I don’t think that played a part in how we performed. At the end of the day, we always gave our best and played to win. The fact there has not been a lot of chat at this World Cup means there is less expectation but in the team we think we can do well.”
Ahead of the tournament, Faf du Plessis asked his players not to focus on doing special things instead toenjoy playing in the tournament. De Kock echoed his captain’s sentiments and felt South Africa enter the tournament with a lot less pressure. “I am excited about the freedom. At the last World Cup, we were ranked number one or two and we were one of the sides earmarked to win it,” he said. “It didn’t happen but there was always a lot of pressure on us. It is pressure we did not want to be part of.
“This year, I am very happy not to be earmarked by anyone. We know how good we are so we just want to come and enjoy it. We have some players who will be playing in their last World Cup and then some who are experiencing it for the first time, so we just want to have some fun.
“I think 2015 was different to this time. Other teams are being called the favourites here and that is a blessing to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, we are here to win but our tournament will be a bit more relaxed and that is a good thing,” he added.
South Africa play their warm-up games against Sri Lanka and West Indies on May 24 and 26 before playing the tournament opener against England on May 30.