September 25, 2022
India vs SA 2022-23 – Mark Boucher facing South Africa between two World Cups

South Africa face a dilemma as they head to India for a white-ball tour that includes three T20Is and three ODIs. With the T20 World Cup barely a month away, the focus of most teams is on the marquee tournament. But South Africa doesn’t have that freedom.

They are currently ranked 11th in the ODI Super League points table with just four wins from 13 matches. They also withdrew from the three-match ODI series against Australia which was originally scheduled for January 2023, and would lose all their Super League points from that series. All this affected their chances of direct qualification for next year’s ODI World Cup in India, with the top eight teams in the table eligible for direct entry. The bottom five teams along with Associates will play a World Cup qualifier to seal the last two spots in the ten-team tournament.

So how does South Africa approach India for the three-match ODI series, which begins on October 6, just 18 days before their first match in the T20 World Cup? Do they unit in full force a few days before an important tournament and try to score Super League points, or do they further risk direct qualification for the ODI World Cup by not playing their best XI?

“I think the one-day series we are going to play, we want results and we want to win,” South Africa’s head coach Mark Boucher said before the team went to India. “But everything regarding the Indian tour will take into account that we’ve got [T20] World Cup ahead of us.

“So if it’s resting players or giving opportunities to players… I look at the team that’s going with us – maybe 19, 20 players – I’d call it a T20 team or an ODI team. I see opportunities in 20 individuals that we need to manage and place them best [T20] world Cup.”

While South Africa have lost only four of their last 21 completed T20Is, their ODI cricket has suffered in recent months. Boucher blamed it several times for not having his best players available.

“One-day cricket, we have a bit of a mixed bag because we have lost players at crucial times in the IPL series and all kinds of things, which are uncontrollable,” he said. “That’s why we don’t always get our best players to be able to play in some of the competitions and series and games that we’ve always needed.

“So we’re in a position where we have to manage with respect to qualification. There’s a lot of special players in this white-ball team. It’s a balance on trying to work out how we get everyone involved and give them a big shot.” Let’s prepare for the event, which is the World Cup.”

India will be South Africa’s last stop before heading to Australia for the T20 World Cup. Incidentally, India and South Africa are in the same group in the tournament and will face each other in Perth on 30 October. Boucher is well aware of this fact.

“We have to be careful about the conditions in which we are going to play,” he said. “It’s about not taking out too many cards, especially in India because they are in our pool as well, so we are going to meet them at some stage,” Boucher said. “There are some games we play against them, the places we’re going, we’re not sure what we’ll get.”

“It was just a position in which I was placed, and I saw an opportunity for my future, for my family to move forward, and I took that opportunity,” Boucher said. “From a personal point of view my decisions are not going to hinder these guys at all. I will continue to give them everything I have to get the best results in the World Cup.

“It’s a huge World Cup for us, and I’m really looking forward to it, and I know the players are looking forward to it as well. It’s a very strong team too, and it’s a big opportunity for us, and our They have players striving for great results in the World Cup.”

Ashish Pant is Deputy Editor with ESPNcricinfo

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