The Proteas levelled the three-match ODI series against Pakistan, when Temba Bavuma's men won the tenth annual pink ODI by 17 runs at Wanderers on Sunday. Unfortunately, expectations of a highly-competitive series finale may have to be quelled with five players leaving the South African camp to play in the IPL. This begs the question, does the absence of these players do more harm than good for the Proteas' World Cup plans?
The players in question are Quinton de Kock (Mumbai Indians), David Miller (Rajasthan Royals), Lungi Ngidi (Chennai Super Kings) and Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje (both Delhi Capitals). The contributions of these players in the first two games illustrate the value that they bring to the side.
Looking at the bowlers, five of the seven scalps in the first ODI at Centurion were shared by Rabada and Nortje. The context of these wickets is also very important, with Nortje breaking a 177-run partnership between Imam-ul-Haq and captain Babar Azam, dismissing both when Pakistan were in a very dominant position.
Vital runs also came from both batsmen De Kock and Miller, with each of them contributing 100 runs across the two games. Knowing the calibre of these players, it would be naïve to believe that their absence will make little difference, especially since that is close to half of the team gone.
None of these are players that can be easily replaced. They have 371 ODI caps between the five of them – valuable experience that would help newer players acclimatise as they join the squad. There's even the possibility that they could return with injuries that keep them out of the squad for even longer.
Despite this, Proteas coach Mark Boucher chose to dwell to the positives of the IPL presence of the players. "Playing in a good, strong competition against top, strong opposition who they are likely to face in the World T20, they are going to get first-hand information about the different venues, the opposition we expect to meet up in the world event," said Boucher.
"Look at it positively – they are not going on holidays and it also gives us an opportunity to have a lookout over other guys in the fray."
This will be a chance for the likes of Janneman Malan, Kyle Verryenne and Keshav Maharaj, who proved themselves against Australia in 2020, to return to the ODI set-up. South Africa now have an opportunity to test the depth of their talent pool in a must-win game on Wednesday that would clinch the series and gain points in the Super League. While this may disrupt momentum in the short-term it can lead potentially to a strong and internally competitive squad for the 2023 World Cup.
Jingle by Men With Ven