T20 World Cup: Nerves will be there, but South Africa go in with very little pressure, says Paul Adams

by IANS |

T20 World Cup: Nerves will be there, but South Africa go in with very little pressure, says Paul Adams Bridgetown (Barbados), June 29 (IANS) After 54 matches, the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup has reached its conclusion point through Saturday’s engrossing title clash between unbeaten sides India and South Africa at the Kensington Oval. For South Africa, it’s the first time they are playing a men’s Cricket World Cup final after seven previous heartbreaks in the knockouts. But the Aiden Markram-led side haven’t crumbled under pressure and have managed to come out on top every single time by winning key moments. Former South Africa spinner Paul Adams, who played 45 Tests and 25 ODIs, speaks exclusively to IANS on the Proteas entering the title clash, how they stack up against a formidable Indian team, Aiden Markram stepping up as the leader and more. Excerpts: Q. How big an occasion is it for South Africa to play in a men’s World Cup final through Saturday’s title clash against India? A. I think it's a massive occasion for South Africa. As a cricket player, plus as cricket fans, and South Africans, there's always been this voodoo of South Africa not entering the finals of the competition. Now, they've won some very close games and handled pressure very well. So, for me, this final is important for how people perceive South African cricket in the world and how it's seen in South Africa as well. You watch the scenes on social media, and behind the scenes in the changing room, and there’s so much joy in what they're showing towards each other. This occasion is one to just embrace and make sure that you understand the moment, talk about it and not really hide what feelings you've got inside for it. You best deal with these moments if you just talk about those feelings that you have. It's about being themselves on the day, and these players have played in lots of finals of various tournaments. So, they've had the taste of what finals are like. But it is a World Cup final, and first time, the South Africa men’s walk there, where the nation's on their shoulders. I'm sure they'll take a lot of confidence from playing finals previously in various tournaments and they can take it forward into their play in the final. Q. As you said, South Africa have come out on top of very close games, which has been a real highlight of their campaign. Do you think it will be the year of South Africa winning the title? A. It's a great moment for South Africa and I think they go in with very little pressure. There will be lots of nerves, but it's understandable. They've accepted those pressure moments and occasions, especially when they were entering the semifinals. It was a big moment for them to just get over that hurdle. They understand it's why we play cricket for - while we play these big tournaments, it's about to win it by getting into the final. You've got to cherish, really enjoy each moment and not fear anything. Yes, they're up against an Indian side who's performed really well, and who's got all the expectation on them. But if I just look in past history, India has also fallen and not won the big occasions at many times. So, for me, it's making sure that South Africa is well-prepared, and understand each player really well. They'll understand them really well because a lot of them play in the IPL either against or with each other in certain teams. There's also on the coaching staff, someone like Eric Simons, who's had great experience with Chennai Super Kings and within the structure of Indian cricket team. So, understanding each player that we're up against will do good for South Africa. Plus, it's all about execution on the day. A little bit of luck here and there, you're going past the final hurdle. South Africa will want to be giving it all and make sure that everyone's really well prepared, calm and understand that they're confident about their performances in the final. Q. Just like Rohit Sharma, Aiden Markram hasn’t lost a game as a captain. He’s been calm and sorted in pressure situations. What have been the standout aspects of his leadership in the tournament so far? A. What I see is he's been handling the pressure really well. More so, it's his decision-making in the moment has been clinical. Where he's read conditions and understood that maybe he had to bowl a lot more spin up front and attacked with it, he has done that and left the seamers at the back end. He's also known when the seamers had to attack and how to manages them, like does he bowl them through, especially in that semi-final against Afghanistan where there was a lot of assistance for them. He put those seam bowlers up front and got the wickets, instead of holding them back and one may have thought, he could have let the game go. If that had happened, he would have got either of the spinners on and maybe Afghanistan would have put a partnership together and constructed their innings a lot better. South Africa only had three seamers in their armory, but they really came to the party. Markram has been a good leader, and if you look at him from the outside, it's that calmness, how he manages the troops and how he just sort of he's getting the best out of a lot of these players. Q. How big a role do you think Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi will play in the final for South Africa? A. The spinners have played a big role and have been absolutely superb through the middle-overs, even though the quicks are up there with the leading wicket-takers. Keshav has been effective, and Shamsi especially has come in when the pitches have looked like it's going to spin. In that game against Nepal, he took two up front and two more at the back to really just put the whole strangle on the side. He's a wicket-taker, and in terms of wrist spinners, for me, he's going to be key. Even in the Indian side, when Kuldeep has come on, he showed that he can get breakthroughs. So, the spin bowlers on both sides are going to be important, like how both teams manage them, control the run rate and really look to attack on either way. Q. In your opinion, how would the South African batters go about in handling the challenges mainly coming from Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah? A. It's managing upfront that's more important. Getting up against Arshdeep and Bumrah is key, because they've been a strike force by taking early wickets and really putting teams under pressure. South Africa’s batting line-up can manage them, like you've got Reeza Hendricks, who just got some good form in tough conditions. They had to show some batsmanship in the semi-finals, as Hendricks and Markram, didn't have enough form in the previous group stages. Then, all of a sudden, on a tough wicket in the semi-finals, they had to grind and really focus to put a partnership together. Maybe that's a turning point for them coming good at the right time. So, we need our batters up front to really construct the innings, be confident, and score runs, especially against those seam bowlers up front. Once that's set up, which is the key, we understand what Heinrich Klassen has been over the last year and a half. Him and David Miller are great finishers of the game. But Klassen in particular, has taken down spin, either in SA20, or IPL. He has shown that he is looking to dominate against the spin bowlers and take control against them. So, it's going to be a great contest. Q. A word on the decisive roles the fast-bowling trio of Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen and Anrich Nortje will be playing in the final, especially with South Africa going to play at Barbados for the first time in this competition. A. The South African fast-bowlers have been really good in the lengths they've been bowling in and according to the field sets that have been placed. So, a lot of the times their use of Anrich Nortje outside the power-play has been absolutely vital in trying to strike and take wickets, and they've used it in an aggressive fashion. You can look at the field placing, like mid-on and mid-off has come up. Then all of a sudden, you see the square fielders and third man and fine leg is back. So, you've got to know they're going to hit that deck hard and really come through the bat splice area. So, for subcontinent teams, that can be a challenge. It depends on the field too, if it's short square or short straight boundaries, and how they want to go the length in that way. A lot of the time we've played on fields there where the straights have been short. So, you want to be hitting hard length and that's execution. So, you've got to top your hat off in saying that the fast bowlers have come to the party for them. Q. What are the boxes you think South Africa will be aiming to put a tick mark on in the final? A. It's creating partnership upfront. If South Africa can tick that box, either in the top three or better, that should really get themselves in and control the innings. The rest of the power hitters down the middle and lower end can really look to dominate in the back end of the innings. That's going to be important for them, and so from that top three, one of them has to really get through the overs, with good intensity in that sense. Not about blocking and going at a run a ball, but this World Cup has been more about assessing conditions, and that's going to be important in being able to knock it through and get the runs. We look at some difficult wickets where they played on early in the competition, which means it's about those assessing the conditions and getting through it. If it's a good surface there at Barbados, it's going to be a really good battle then. When it comes to bowling, it's about taking wickets up front, because Rohit Sharma has been a real sword for the Indian side. He's shown that again and again, time after time, what he becomes in big games, whenever he put the performances in. If South Africa can really knock the wind out of the sails up front, it's going to be key in the final. Q. Could you explain your emotions ahead of South Africa playing a final and being on the cusp of glory? A. For me, I'm quite excited. I don't know how I'm going to sleep on Friday night. I'm thinking about those moments all the time, and I think every South African is, as well as every past player who's played in the World Cup, and been in those moments. All of us are so proud of this team, who have stepped into the moment and got us into the final. We are waiting with bated breath on how they're going to perform. But no matter what the result is, I'm very proud of this unit in terms of how they carried and conducted themselves, as well as how they played in those pressure moments. We're really just ready to go for them. I've said to everyone - no one's going to bother me on Saturday as I will be watching the final, with my snacks ready. We've been waiting for this moment for many years, sitting and watching South Africa play in a World Cup final. A lot of South Africans will be lighting the fire, putting the barbecue and braai on, and enjoy seeing this moment. --IANS nr/

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