SA stars lighting up IPL though there are slight concerns about Markram

Heinrich Klaasen's form for Sunrisers Hyderabad augers well for SA's T20 World Cup hopes.
Heinrich Klaasen's form for Sunrisers Hyderabad augers well for SA's T20 World Cup hopes.
Image: Sunrisers Hyderabad/X

The demands Heinrich Klaasen has of himself will hopefully not lead to any sort of catastrophic injury because both the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Proteas can ill-afford the absence of the T20 format’s most devastating player. 

Klaasen thumped the back of his bat with his right fist so hard after Rashid Khan bowled him at the weekend that viewers would have feared for the bat, but also Klaasen’s physical wellbeing. He is at that stage of his career where the expectations he has of himself are so much higher than anyone who is watching him — and those are stratospheric anyway. 

So devastating has Klaasen become, that he has been able to balance a strike rate of 182.80 in T20 Leagues in the last three years with an average of almost 48. His violent response to his dismissal was understandable, but coaches and teammates, whether at the IPL or in the South African set-up, would rather he avoid self-harm in the future. 

Klaasen has scored 167 runs in the first three matches, with his strike rate sitting at a supreme 219.73. Already a South African middle order with him — Aiden Markram, David Miller and perhaps Tristan Stubbs — is shaping up as a devastating weapon for the T20 World Cup and it will have pleased coach Rob Walter that all seem to be in reasonable form, even if in the case of Markram he is yet to make a match-defining contribution for the Sunrisers. 

There was a fear that the Proteas’ T20 captain Markram would not get a lot of game time in the Indian Premier League (IPL), ostensibly because of Klaasen. The two slot in at 4 and 5 in the order for Hyderabad, but that franchise has struggled with finding the correct balance for its starting team given all international options at its disposal. 

Markram no longer has the ‘protection’ of the captaincy, which now sits with Pat Cummins, so will have to elevate his output with the bat lest he run the risk of being dropped and going into the World Cup completely ‘cold.’ 

From a South African perspective Klaasen has been the talk of the IPL generating hits — both his own and online — in the opening week of the 2024 tournament. Kwena Maphaka has ignited the internet in this country, not so much for what he’s done on the field, but the chatter generated by Dale Steyn’s post about the 17-year-old realising the difference between the IPL and under-19 cricket. 

Steyn was right, of course, albeit his opinion was ripped straight from the book of ‘Stating the Bleeding Obvious’, but it generated much visceral reaction, further underlining just how dumb social media has become. 

Maphaka will hopefully have steered clear of all that — his Mumbai Indians are already the subject of much publicity having started the tournament with three consecutive losses. The captain, Hardik Pandya, is being booed from one corner of India to another, including by his home crowd at Wankhede Stadium. 

Whether Maphaka becomes a victim of the Indians’ desperation to fix their issues — be that leadership, the batting or their strange strategy — will unfold in the coming weeks. Either way, it’s a heck of a learning curve for one of the most talented young sports stars South Africa has produced in many years. 

Maphaka’s two South African teammates at Mumbai, Dewald Brevis and Gerald Coetzee, have yet to provide solutions to their problems. Brevis continues to be a better star of Mumbai’s Instagram feed than anything he’s done on the field while Coetzee has looked like a bowler who hadn’t bowled in nearly three months. 

The more game time for him the better, and it's unlikely he’ll fall completely out of World Cup reckoning. 

Anrich Nortjé is another who needs the extra playing time in Delhi if he wants to impress Walter and the selectors. South Africa is certainly not short of fast bowling options, with Nandre Burger’s opening week for Rajasthan Royals, in which he’s taken five wickets and bowled with terrific pace, pushing him into the list of potential World Cup candidates.

Already Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada are assured of their spots, even if the former can’t crack a starting place at Hyderabad, and another option will bear consideration once Lungi Ngidi turns out for the Titans in the local T20 Challenge.

The IPL is certainly proving to be beneficial for the Proteas , though in the case of Faf du Plessis, it is also quickly ushering him out of the category of batters who will be considered for the US and Caribbean in June.

Du Plessis, 39, has made three half centuries in his last 10 innings, a reasonable return, but given the resources South Africa have at the top of the order, Including Quinton de Kock, Ryan Rickelton, Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks, Du Plessis’s World Cup hopes may already be over.