PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Here are five things to know about the South Africa team ahead of cricket's World Twenty20 in Bangladesh:
THE 'C' WORD — Chokers. It's the word that always hangs over South Africa's regularly shaky campaigns in major limited-overs tournaments. Ever since South Africa failed when needing just one run off the last four balls in the World Cup semifinals against Australia in 1999, it's been a litany of near-misses and gut-wrenching late failures. The South Africans have made the semifinals of the World Cup, Champions Trophy or World Twenty20 nine times since 1992 and have just one final and one title to show for it — a long-forgotten triumph in the Champions Trophy in 1998.
NEW ERA — Although they played little part in South Africa's T20 squad over the last few years, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis have finally wound down their careers. Smith retired from all internationals this month and Kallis is now only occasionally available for 50-over games, forcing the Proteas to enter a new era. Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kok, middle-order power hitter David Miller and left-arm quick Beuran Hendricks are part of the new T20 order under captain Faf du Plessis and coach Russell Domingo.
SHORT FORMAT TEST — This month's series defeat to Australia aside, South Africa has been settled as the best test team in the world for two years. But the transfer of talent to the limited-overs formats has been tricky and South Africa has been nowhere near as successful in the short formats. Batsmen AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla and fast bowler Dale Steyn haven't been able to shine the way they do in tests, and South Africa isn't quite sure why.
PREPARATION NOT IDEAL — South Africa hasn't had a fun start to 2014: A reduced India series left the country with no international cricket through January. Then there was the ICC restructure affair, a damaging few weeks for South African cricket's administrators. And this month the 2-1 loss to Australia on home soil, South Africa's first defeat in a test series in five years. A couple of T20 games in a series loss to Australia, the Proteas' only 20-over cricket this year, might not provide the new-look squad with the preparation it needs for Bangladesh.
YOUNGSTERS SHOW THE WAY — Not the youngsters in the senior squad, but the youngsters in the under-19 team. South Africa's juniors returned home as world champions at the beginning of March, the country's first ICC trophy at any level since that Champions Trophy title in '98. South Africa, with its limited-overs struggles, will gladly take the youth team's success as a sign that better times might be ahead.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP