I fear that I give short shrift to South Africa in Right Off the Bat. Partly this is because during the 1970s and 1980s, when I was growing to love the game of cricket, the South Africans were excluded from playing international sport under the Gleneagles Agreement, and so no touring teams visited England or were televised. Since returning from the international wilderness in the 1990s, the South Africans have been a side that has been more a collection of some outstanding players rather than a team. They have garnered an unfortunate reputation for “choking” in key moments in all forms of the game. As they make their way through the World Cup tournament in the Indian sub-continent, the question is being asked again: Do South Africa have what it takes to win?
Certainly, they do not lack for talent. They have the most destructive and powerful fast bowler in the world in Dale Steyn, the most prolific runmaker over the last twelve months in Hashim Amla, a world-class batsman in A. B. de Villiers, and the greatest all-rounder who ever lived in Jacques Kallis. They can never be ruled out, and yet somehow they’re just not a safe bet, either to reach the final of the World Cup, or to win it at last. It’s doubtful that the South Africans will have a stronger side anytime soon; the question is whether that side will become an unbeatable team.
Here’s Dale Steyn in action—to give you an idea of the sheer toe-crunching force of his bowling: