Simons- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

CHENNAI: South Africa’s bowling coach Eric Simons is confident of a good show by his team in the World Cup that begins on Thursday. His confidence stems from the fact that his team defeated Australia 3-2 in the one-dayers back home. Also the fact his team has some quality batters in its ranks and not to forget, perhaps the best new-ball bowlers in Lungi Ngidi and Kasisgo Rabada. In the spin department, South Africa may not be on par with many of the teams in the World Cup. But Simons, in a chat with this daily, said that Keshav Maharaj can deliver and insists that teams will be underestimating the India-origin player at their own peril. Excerpts.

On the mood in the team?
It’s great to be back in India. I was involved with Team India for the World Cup in 2011 and pretty much every IPL, so in fact like more than 10 years here. The team mood is very good in particular after the ODI series win against Australia after being down and then winning 3-1. Still, there is room for improvement, we are all excited about the tournament.

On the balance of the team

Any team can always be more balanced when you have batters down to 8 or 9. South Africa has been blessed with some incredible all-rounders in the past. I think the South African team has got good balance with someone like Marco Jansen who has improved with leaps and bounds. Andile Phehlukwayo is very capable with the bat as well. Maharaj can do the job as well, so it boils down to how they adapt to the conditions and perform.

On the dependence on top-order batters

We have our captain Temba Bavuma at the top, he knows his game and has a different style from others. He can adapt, go at the opposition bowling and get good strike rates and also when the situation demands he can play the supporting role. He is a good player of spin. Reeza Hendriks is another good player. I don’t think many of us know much about him, but he is a quality player. We might play six batters, chances to play seven batters may come at some stage, so he is a real player of quality. So like we did against Australia we have the men to get a big score on the board.

On the role of the anchor/finisher for SA

When somebody scores a 100 it obviously often leads to a situation where a team gets a big number. Our team does not depend upon one individual. It (runs) could come from anybody Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, David Miller. Bavuma and Reeza can score big and quickly. All are capable of scoring big numbers and that is our strength. We have enough variety in our ranks to play anchor or dominator.

On the pace attack
We do have tremendous potential in our fast bowling attack. Obviously missing the experience of Anrich Nortje is a big blow. Sisanda Magala is also not there. Lizaad Williams and all-rounder Phehlukwayo are the good replacements. Gerald Coetzee is not pretty known in these parts (of the world) but he is pacy, he is gonna make any impression in the tournament. In Indian conditions for a seem attack the most important thing is accuracy and execution.

On the spin options
I think we do have good spinners in Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi. I have worked a lot over the years in India, at home and in IPL teams in India and have watched a lot of bowlers. I feel one must not underestimate the ability of Maharaj. He has subtle variations, good control. I think he is someone that I think the opposition batters are going to find it tough to score. He has bounce, drift,  loop, then, varies the pace of the ball as well, He will play an important role for us and also learn from his outing in the World Cup.

On Bavuma as a leader

Bavuma is a leader who leads by example. He is somebody who screams and shouts, demands anything from anybody. He is very inclusive in the way he goes about the task. He trusts the players. He will be back soon, he has gone home for personal reasons.

On their opening game

Winning against Sri Lanka in the first game will be very important. In fact you need to get ahead of the curve. If you lose a few games you are always under pressure. So I think it’s important to get up to a good start and carry forward the momentum. In case one loses, I believe you need to fight back in the next game and your aim must be to reach the top four.

On the team to beat

I think the two teams to beat in this World Cup are India and England. I think they are both well covered in terms of skill and balance, their batters can intimidate the opposition bowlers. New Zealand are the dark horses for me. In these tournaments they are a well respected side now, they seem to punch above the weight in these ICC tournaments, the World cups. But I also think we have come here very much under the radar, people are not really talking about us. But I think if we do hit a bit of momentum, I think we are a team that can certainly go all the way, so I will see ourselves as the dark horse.

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