Big three key to South Africa’s success in India


De Kock, Miller and Rabada, the sole survivors of both South Africa's previous bilateral T20I series in India, have also played 260 IPL games between them

De Kock, Miller and Rabada, the sole survivors of both South Africa’s previous bilateral T20I series in India, have also played 260 IPL games between them ©Getty

That Quinton de Kock, David Miller and Kagiso Rabada are the sole survivors of both South Africa’s previous bilateral T20I series in India is no surprise. De Kock and Miller are the team’s leading runscorers in the format among active players, and no current seamer has taken more wickets for the national side than Rabada.

No-one has more T20I caps for South Africa than Miller, who earned the first of his 92 in May 2010. De Kock, who is fourth on that list, has been part of the side since December 2012 and Rabada since November 2014. All three will be back in India for the five-match series that starts in Delhi on June 9 and ends in Bangalore 10 days later – and which comes hot on the heels of an IPL in which they performed prominently.

De Kock’s 70-ball undefeated 140 for Lucknow Super Giants against Kolkata Knight Riders was the tournament’s highest score, and helped him finish behind only Jos Buttler and KL Rahul as the IPL’s heaviest hitters. Miller, who burned his reputation as a finisher of the highest order for the champions, Gujarat Titans, was in sixth place. No fast bowler took more wickets than Punjab Kings’ Rabada, who had the leading strike rate among bowlers who sent down at least 30 overs.

Cricket-minded South Africans will expect the big three to come up with efforts of similar impact next week, when Temba Bavuma’s side will look to keep alive their team’s record of being the only visiting outfit who have played more than one T20I rubber in India never to have been beaten in the format there.

At Dharamsala in October 2015, not even Rohit Sharma’s 106 and a target of 200 could stop the South Africans from winning by seven wickets with two balls to spare. Albie Morkel made for an unlikely demon bowler in the second and last game of the rubber in Cuttack, taking 3/12 as India crumbled to 92 all out – then their lowest T20I total at home. South Africa completed their whitewash in 17.1 overs, winning by six wickets.

De Kock was in that squad but didn’t play in either match, not with AB de Villiers around. Miller had almost as quiet a series. He wasn’t required to bat in the first game and had faced only eight balls when victory was clinched in the second. Rabada, too, kept a low profile by going wicketless for 32 and taking 1/18.

India’s only T20I win over South Africa at home, by seven wickets with an over to spare thanks to Virat Kohli’s 72 not out, followed in Mohali in September 2019. But the South Africans squared the series emphatically at the same ground four days later. De Kock scored 52 and 79 not out in the series and Rabada dismissed Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja at a cost of 39 runs in the second match. Miller made 18 in the first game and didn’t bat in the second.

Many South Africans believe that the result of the 2015 T20I series, and the visitors’ 3-2 win in the ODIs that followed, prompted the preparation of unfair pitches that turned square for the Test series that ended the tour, and which India won 3 -0. The theory goes that the BCCI couldn’t stomach the prospect of their team losing all three series, especially as Kohli was in his first home summer as captain.

This time, there will be grumbling among South Africa supporters about the itinerary handed their team. After the Delhi match they will trek 1,260 kilometers eastward to play in Cuttack three days later. From there, it’s just a 460-kilometre jaunt down the coast to Visakhapatnam for the third game. Three days after that they will be in action in Rajkot, 1,388 kilometers across the country north west from Vizag. The finale is two days later in Bangalore, 1,262 kilometers to the south. Considering direct flights aren’t available between some of those cities, the squad could spend as much as 15 hours in the air getting through the five matches.

So the travel tips players as seasoned in these matters as De Kock, Miller and Rabada have gathered over the years might be as valuable to their less experienced teammates as anything they might say or do on the field. Teammates like Tristan Stubbs, the 21-year-old batter who survived the shock of replacing the injured Tymal Mills at Mumbai Indians only to be named in South Africa’s squad for the series.

“I was literally half asleep; I got a fright when I realized it was him,” Stubbs said, in media files CSA released on Friday (June 3), of taking the call from selection convenor Victor Mpitsang that confirmed he had been picked. Stubbs knew he was unlikely to play: “If I happen to get on the park, I’ll just try and enjoy every moment.” He also knew, after two games for Mumbai, that India’s weather wasn’t for the faint-hearted: “I walked off the field looking like I had jumped in the pool.”

De Kock, Miller and Rabada, who have played 260 IPL games between them and another 45 in India for South Africa across the formats, should be able to help Stubbs deal with that, too.

© cricbuzz

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