Still smarting Proteas need to pick up the pace

The Proteas will look to pick up the pieces after their ICC ODI World Cup heartbreak when they face India in the first T20 international set to take place at Kingsmead, Durban, today.

Rob Walter’s charges head into the three-match series still smarting from a disappointing end to what was a promising World Cup campaign in India, where they largely flattered to deceive.

They will now hope to put all the negatives of the campaign behind them as they prepare to do battle with the Indians, who recently defeated Australia 4-1 in their last T20 series.

The Indians will be without skipper Rohit Sharma and star batsman Virat Kohli for the T20s and ODIs in South Africa after the pair asked to be rested ahead of the all important Test series later this month.

As for the Proteas, they will also be without their skipper Temba Bavuma and fast bowler Kagiso Rabada in the white ball series as they look to recover from a World Cup campaign that took a “mental toll” on them.

Skipper Bavuma, in particular, who had a poor World Cup with the bat in India, needed a break to recover mentally from the challenges faced during the tournament, where he came under severe pressure.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a significant mental toll on everyone after the World Cup and hence the decision to give the players at least ten days off after the tournament for mental and physical reasons,” said Walter.

“Temba’s been phenomenal throughout the year, but there’s a mental toll in terms of the pressures of a World Cup. The scrutiny on a captain is even more pronounced.

“For him to step away for a while and prioritise being ready for the Test series is important to us. In fact, we want all of our key players to be in the best shape for that [Test] series and that drove our decision-making.

“Unfortunately, the reality of it is that you’ve got to get back on the horse and play again. I’ve never underestimated what playing for your country does. I think the inclusion of some fresh energy around the group adds to being back in the green and gold.

“I think you will see a committed team, we were disappointed but we are also proud of the way we handled ourselves. There was more positive sentiment than there was the harsh reality of missing out.”

Walter is already planning with the 2024 T20 World Cup in mind, scheduled to be held in the West Indies and the US in June.

The white ball coach insists the door is still open for the potential return of former skipper Faf du Plessis and a host of other experienced players ahead of the big tournament.

“I think obviously given that there are a few of our frontline bowlers missing out, there are guys like Faf and Rilee [Rossouw] as well as Quinny [de Kock] that could be considered for the T20 World Cup,” said Walter.

“We also have the SA20 that’s coming, we saw with the ODI squad that 80% of the side picks itself but there’s definitely space for a few more players to get themselves into the conversation.

“The household names will no doubt be there but it’s an exciting time for guys that are on the fringes”

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