TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
T20 minus 10 and counting. If the marketing mavens are looking to slap a slogan on SA’s preparations for next year’s World Twenty20, they are welcome to that effort for free.
Friday’s game between SA and New Zealand at Kingsmead is the first of 10 T20s the home side will play before they join 15 other teams to contest the 2016 World T20, which will start crashing, booming and banging its way around eight venues in India – the shortest format’s home in every sense – 271 days from Friday on May 11. The final is scheduled for April 3.
The second of the two matches against the Kiwis is in Centurion on Sunday. SA will play three more T20s in India in October. They’ll be back home for two more against England in February, and early in March the Australians arrive to play still more: three.
Then the World T20 is coming, ready or not. But how ready are SA as they stand, how ready should they be right now, and is the necessary discrepancy between those two states of readiness reassuringly narrow or alarmingly wide?
For former SA allrounder Justin Kemp, selection consistency was key to answering all those questions properly.
“You’d think we’d pretty much know what our best T20 team is by now,” Kemp said on Thursday. “In the past we’ve been guilty of too much experimentation. So I’d like to see them stick with a group of guys and just let them play.”
Having beaten Bangladesh soundly in both T20s they played there last month, SA would seem to be on top of things. But their crash in the one-day series that followed would have ripped holes into their confidence; holes that will be no respecters of format.
So the New Zealand matches should give SA some idea of what’s broken and not – and therefore what to fix and not – about their T20 game.
They should try to use every scrap of the evidence they gain given that the available data won’t help them make the distinction.
For instance, since the beginning of last year SA have won seven T20s and lost eight. Six of those victories were achieved batting first, but SA also took guard first in seven of their defeats. The toss? Won five, lost 10.
SA dismissed their opponents four times in the T20s they won and were not dismissed themselves – win or lose.
So far, so frustratingly even. But that does add a modicum of interest to a series that has no context because it is happening in the depths of winter on a tour that does not include tests and features sides that are without 10 of the 22 players who made the World Cup semi-final in Auckland on March 24 an epic.
Good luck with all that, marketing mavens.