‘We have match-winners down to No. 11’

The numerous match-winners in the South African ODI side – right from the openers down to the No. 11 – provides the team a great chance to clinch their maiden World Cup title, according to pace bowler Dale Steyn.

Speaking to the media ahead of his first IPL 2019 match for Royal Challengers Bangalore in Kolkata, Steyn said, “I don’t think South Africa have lost an ODI series in two and a half years [they’ve won 11 of their last 13 ODI series] but no one gives us a chance and then somebody does.

“We’re going with good expectations. If you’re not going to the World Cup expecting to win, then you probably shouldn’t go. But I’m not going to lie, we have some fantastic players.”

Three of them – Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir and Faf du Plessis – have been in excellent form for several months, including at the IPL, and Steyn hoped with their help and a bit of fortune, the World Cup could finally be theirs.

“We’re led by Faf, who’s been in fantastic form lately. And in the IPL, Imran Tahir has been right up there in terms of wickets. From Quinton de Kock all the way down to No. 11, they’re all match-winners. We just need to go there and hope a bit of luck – weather, a missed no-ball – goes your way, and you could win the tournament.

“You look at KG [Rabada], he’s been bowling exceptionally well. Kagiso is a wunderkind. Just hope he continues that kind of form. He’s come on to the scene in international cricket and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. We’ve seen players come in, show signs of extreme excellence and then fade away, but KG is someone we can get used to.”

Steyn also stressed that ODI rankings have little value once the World Cup begins. His belief is that only those who adapt earliest to the conditions in England will win the trophy.

“You just need to go there, figure out which teams are best adapting the conditions and then the team that hits the ground running first has the best chance.”

When asked which other teams were favourites entering the competition Steyn said, “I think every team going to the World Cup has a massive chance. England are playing in England, and they’re playing good some white-ball cricket.

“But I think you really need to take rankings and throw it out of the window. Rankings these days don’t mean anything. I don’t even know what ranking West Indies have, and they just beat England. Australia were losing, and then they’ve started winning again.”

As for Steyn’s mid-season IPL stint, he said that a call from Royal Challengers coach and fellow South African Gary Kirsten brought him to India. Despite being snubbed at the IPL auction in December 2018, Steyn said he holds no grudges, and that although Royal Challengers have lost seven of their first eight games, miracles are always possible in a tournament format like the IPL.

“It happened really quickly,” Steyn said. “I got a call from Gary last week. He asked me have I been playing, have I been bowling, and I said yes. I was actually prepping to play our local T20 tournament. It can sometimes be difficult coming halfway through the IPL and the World Cup coming up, but we got through it, and here I am.

“I wasn’t originally picked up for the IPL, but that’s totally okay. Coaches have plans and structures, and if you’re not in those plans you shouldn’t take it personally. It’s nothing personal, it’s business. But to be honest with you, I just love playing cricket. Whether I was playing T20 cricket in South Africa or came here, I’d still be doing exactly the same thing. And when I have the ball in hand, I want to win for whoever I’m playing for.

“It’s sometimes nice to join halfway through a tournament, because you bring in some injection of excitement. Obviously, the season hasn’t gone how RCB have planned, but that’s cricket. It’s like fishing. They would call fishing as ‘catching’ if we caught fish all the time. We don’t, and that’s why it’s called fishing. But it’s a strange game. if we win our games, and hopefully the energy I bring in pays off, then anything can happen.”

South Africa face England in the World Cup’s opening fixture on May 30 at The Oval. They announce their 15-man World Cup squad on Wednesday.

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