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Mark Boucher’s project 2023 restarts in earnest: ‘We want to make the plays’

Proteas head coach Mark Boucher

Proteas head coach Mark Boucher

  • When the Proteas play Pakistan in the first of three ODIs at SuperSport Park in Centurion, it’ll be their first ODI in more than a year.
  • Covid-19 issues saw SA miss out on five ODIs against India away and England at home.
  • The last time SA played an ODI, they were still captained by Quinton de Kock, but they will be led by Temba Bavuma.

It has been more than a year since South Africa last played in an ODI and that’s given Proteas coach Mark Boucher a different, but refreshed view they need to adopt on the path to the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

Firstly, Friday’s first ODI against Pakistan at SuperSport Park will be played under a new captain in Temba Bavuma.

Aiden Markram, who hasn’t been anywhere close to ODI selection after an indifferent start to his white-ball career despite his red-ball excellence, is set to play.

Quinton de Kock, who was the ODI captain when South Africa beat Australia by six wickets in Potchefstroom, has been relieved of all leadership duties.

That’s a lot of change, alongside five ODIs being lost to Covid-19, meaning that SA are starting on a clean slate. Not that Boucher is worried about that.

“A lot of guys were rested at the time and there were one or two injuries. It was a long time ago and that confidence can be taken forward in terms of thought processes in terms of where we were and where we finished off, but we have a full selection of squad members to choose from,” he said.

“The guys who were injured at the time need to fill those spots again and form has to be put into consideration as they have been playing good cricket. We’ll make selections on good and sound cricketing background, but it is nice to have a full squad to select from.”

That South Africa haven’t played 50-over for so long means they’re quite untested, even though several of the players who didn’t go to Pakistan for the Test and ODI series played in the rain-spoilt One-Day Cup that took place in Potchefstroom.

There are also those who were part of the T20 squad in Pakistan who gained crucial experience that’ll come in handy for the four-match T20 series that’ll follow the three-game ODI series.

While they were encountered with typical low and slow conditions at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore in February, the early Autumn Highveld pitches will be fresher than normal due to a lack of normal cricket traffic.

Since all the matches are day games, Boucher isn’t concerned about changing conditions. He does expect the pitches to be slower than normal.

“The wicket does look pretty good but we haven’t played much on these wickets due to Covid-19 times. They’ll be fresher now at this time of year and since it’s also day games, we won’t be affected that much. We’re still expecting good conditions, but with the history of playing at this time of the year, it could be a touch slower,” Boucher said.

With a large squad at his disposal, Boucher identified the combating of spin and the collecting of wickets in the middle overs as two facets his team need to get better in on their path to the 2023 World Cup.

“We’ve been upskilling ourselves with regards to spin, especially in a World Cup year. Spin has been something I have been looking at in terms of giving guys 360-degree options of scoring around the field. It’ll take time because you can’t expect guys to play the reverse sweep and other shots in the nets and go and do it in the game,” Boucher said.

“From a bowling perspective, we’ve got pace and we need to pick up wickets. From overs 11 to 40, we can’t be in the zone of bowling the ball in areas and wait for things to happen. We want to be the guys who make the play instead of waiting for the action to come. If you pick up wickets in the middle overs, you’re likely to win matches and we’ve got the firepower to do so.”

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