South Africa’s middle-order is one of most destructive ever but Bavuma must step up: Smith

Mumbai, Oct 30 (PTI) South Africa owes its success to one of its “most destructive” middle-order, said former skipper Graeme Smith, who wants captain Temba Bavuma to step up to guide the team to a first-ever World Cup title.

Smith admits he did not expect this South African side to be so ruthless but said their consistent and dominant performances have established them as one of the favourites to lift the title.

“Like everybody else, my expectations were lower going into the tournament. I knew that if the team was going to do well, there were certain players who had to have a good tournament — and that has happened,” Smith told PTI.

“South Africa has a really destructive middle order. I would probably say one of South Africa’s most destructive middle-order ever — with Nos 4, 5 and 6, (Aiden) Markram, (Heinrich) Klaasen and (David) Miller — you have got players that have incredible power and destructive ability. They all play spin well, that is a huge asset.” For a team to have recorded totals in the range of 400 as many as three times, Smith feels batting with freedom has led them to dominate the opposition in the competition and they must stick with what has worked for them with the semifinals looming large.

“They are building up to some big games, against Afghanistan, New Zealand and India. Hopefully, they can maintain the freedom (with which) they have been playing with,” said Smith, who is also the league commissioner of SA20.

“The key for them now, getting to these stages in the tournament, (the) conversations change, (the) pressure changes and expectations are now there. They should just focus on cricket and play the way they have played.” Smith said South Africa’s success is a testimony to the work done by captain Bavuma, white ball coach Rob Walter and senior players, but the skipper must put in some strong performances too.

“I know what it is like. He (Bavuma) is batting, he is captaining … off the field stuff, and his tactical stuff on the field is going to be the key. He is carrying a lot, he has been in the job for a period of time,” Smith said.

“He has had the downs, he has had the ups and he has got enough experience now to be able to do the job really well. There seems to be a great spirit within the squad, that is a testimony to him and Rob Walter (the coach) and all the senior players for how the squad is playing.

“I would love to see, at this stage in the tournament, (Bavuma to) step up with the bat, make really good decisions and he certainly has the opportunity to do that. The world is yours, you have got yourself in this position now, you have pretty much qualified for the semifinals now, lots to look forward to.” South African national rubgy team on Saturday won its fourth World cup title and Smith hoped the country’s cricket side can emulate the Springboks. “The opportunity for Temba is incredible. Our rugby team has just won the World Cup now, South Africa is going sports-mad at the moment and you expect that to now translate into the Proteas … I am hoping for a South Africa-India final — that would be great.” Smith, who has an incredible record of 53 wins from 108 Tests as captain, was relieved South Africa have been able to put behind disappointing performances in the past World Cup events and are in the ‘hunt’ for their maiden title win in this edition.

“South Africa has been there as well for the last few tournaments. From our perspective it is great to see that the team is doing well and in the hunt — that is what you want — you want your team in the hunt as you get to crunch time in the tournament,” he said.

South Africa will face India on November 5 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata and Smith recalled memories of playing at the hallowed turf.

“In 2011, I remember playing against India in Nagpur — a hell of a game — we went over the line and India then went on to win the World Cup.

“These experiences will stay with the players forever, to play India in those types of stadiums is an incredible thing, but if they go on to beat them it will be even better,” he added.

Source: PTI News

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