Laura Wolvaardt says South Africa ‘pretty close’ to nailing best XI for T20 World Cup

It has not even been a year since Laura Wolvaardt took over the South Africa captaincy from Sune Luus but it’s been hard for her as a captain. Though her batting has flourished in this period, on paper, South Africa haven’t been able to find much success, especially in T20Is.

Coming off two series defeats against Australia and Sri Lanka, Wolvaardt said on the eve of the series opener against India that South Africa will be playing their best XI and “most likely side to be playing in the World Cup” having tinkered with the team in the last few series. The three-match T20I series will also be South Africa’s final assignment before the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in October.

“It’s one of our last dress rehearsals before the big occasion,” Wolvaardt said. “So we’ll be looking to play as strong an 11 as we can and to have plans that are similar, so we can have them to the World Cup whether they be bowling options or batting line-up. And just try and nail down different combinations. We’ve had a few T20 series in the last couple of tours where we’ve sort of tried one or two things and given some youngsters an opportunity. But for this one, we’ll be looking to play our best side and most likely side to be playing in the World Cup.”

With spin-bowling allrounder Chole Tryon also returning to the side from injury, Wolvaardt added that her team is “pretty close” to nailing down the XI that would be featuring in the upcoming World Cup. But she couldn’t confirm if Marizanne Kapp, who played a specialist batter due to minor back injury and workload management in the ODIs and the Test, was fit to bowl in the shortest format.

“Obviously, in an ideal world, Marizanne would also be bowling, but other than that we should have everyone on board. I was happy having Chloe back as well. It should be as close, barring any injuries touchwood,” she said.

Under Wolvaardt’s captaincy, South Africa had lost nine of their last 15 T20Is since the T20 World Cup final last year. In the multi-format series, they had lost both ODIs 3-0 and the Test by ten wickets. In South Africa’s quest for a maiden win of the series, she called for the team to get extra “10-20 runs” and be a bit more consistent with the ball. India, on the other hand, are coming off a 5-0 series whitewash against Bangladesh, clinched the ODIs 3-0 in Bengaluru and won the one-off Test by ten wickets in Chennai.

“It’s just about for the batting unit to find that extra 10 or 20 runs. Throughout that Australia series, we were, sort of pushing 150-160s, but with the game nowadays and coming on a flat wicket, you know teams are scoring 180-200, especially in these conditions. In the WPL, there are also a lot of very high scores. With the ball, it’s about just being a bit more clinical and a bit more consistent. But yeah, the direction of the game is moving, and we need to keep being brave and playing positive cricket.”

As a part of the final leg of their preparations for the global event in Bangladesh, South Africa couldn’t have asked for better conditions than Chennai, which has traditionally favoured spin. Wolvaardt conceded that it’s an opportunity for them to try spinners in the first six overs or at the death, something that’s uncommon with their bowling. That apart, only Luus, Kapp and Tryon have played in a T20I in Chennai before, in the 2016 T20 World Cup.

“It’s a good time to maybe see if we could perhaps use a bit more spin in the powerplay or at the death,” she said. “Traditionally we use a lot of spin in the middle, but it could be a good time to to experiment with one or two things. India will probably play a lot of a lot of spinners, maybe only one or two pacers, so they’ll probably bowl spin throughout the innings, which is probably something we could try as well. But yeah, it depends on the day and how the conditions unfold and how spin-friendly is out there.

“The wicket looks a bit different for the T20s than on the Test. I think the Test we had that red clay, and this one looks a bit white clear and lighter. But having never played a white-ball game here before, we’ll have to see how much it turns. Yeah, a bit of a frustrating hard toil on that first day of the Test. For us, none of our plans were working. But yeah, we’ve had one or two discussions, but T20 cricket is more about sort of trying to keep the very explosive Indian batters more quiet, so it’s more just been talking around their batters and maybe keep them a bit quiet.”

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