ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP, 2019
Faf du Plessis is asking his players not to focus on doing special things © Getty
South Africa and World Cups aren’t best of pals. It’s the pressure that has majorly got the better of the side. This time though, ahead of the 2019 World Cup, Faf du Plessis is asking his players not to focus on doing special things. For at least this time, it’s about enjoying the tournament for the South Africa captain.
“We believed you had to be really special to win the World Cup, that you had to do something more than you usually do, which is not true,” du Plessis said on Saturday (May 18). “Whatever we’ve been doing consistently, the way we’ve played while beating teams that will work. We have to do the basics as well as possible, teams don’t win the World Cup by someone scoring a century off 50 balls or taking 7 for 20.
“I’ve been there and I know the pressures, I understand how to deal with them. There’s a reason why we want the guys to play freely – because we don’t want them to have a fear of failure, which is what the World Cup is for some of them. Our success in England over the next couple of months depends on how well we release that aspect of our play – we need that for the team to be at our best. Each player needs to find out his own strengths.
“The players relate better to fellow players and I’m on the same level as the coach when it comes to the importance of the mental side. I’m a big believer in positive visualisation, how to remain calm, and I feel it has had value for my own game. So I can relate that to the players, how important it is to be present in the moment; for instance when there’s been a dropped catch, there’s nothing you can do about it and it’s about how you change your mindset to make sure you are still strong mentally.”
The heat will on right from the first game as South Africa will clash against tournament favourites England and India in two of their first three matches. Du Plessis hinted that senior players won’t necessarily walk into the playing XIs and will have to earn their rights in the warm-up games.
South Africa will keep a close eye on Hashim Amla’s performance who has just one century to his name since the start of 2018. “As an experienced player, he is important in our squad and that was one of the key reasons he was picked,” du Plessis said. “You cannot substitute experience. When I speak about the experience, I speak about experience having played in tournaments like the World Cup before. He understands what it means to play in a big tournament.
“Whether that means runs or not, no one can give us that guarantee. But it’s just the calm composure Hashim has. Even if he doesn’t play a game, just the knowledge and experience that he can share with someone like an Aiden Markram is something you can only get from a guy like Hashim. He can talk him through those first 10 overs, he has a lot of experience playing county cricket, so his experience is vital to the group.
“In terms of team selection, that’s a call we will make when we get to that first game. We have two warm-up games. Generally, we want to pick on form. If we believe Hash is the guy with the best form for the first game then he will be picked. But if we feel there are other guys that are more in form [we will pick them]. Form does play a huge role in a long competition like this – so hopefully Hash can go into those warm-ups, and bang, bang two centuries in a row and then we can smile from there.”
South Africa play their warm-up games against Sri Lanka and West Indies on May 24 and 26 before playing the tournament opener on May 30.