Wait a minute! Amidst all the preparations and setbacks ahead of the T20 World Cup, why is there an ODI series? What is the purpose of it? With so many players ruled out, was this necessary?
Not even a fortnight left until the start of a major T20 tournament, who plays an ODI series? Bizarre, isn’t it? When the three-match ODI series between India and South Africa was scheduled, the world was baffled. But, the ODI series which is needless for the world, is indispensable for South Africa.
By pulling out from the ODI series against Australia in January 2023, South Africa have awarded all the 30 points of the three-match series to Australia. For all practical purposes that series should be considered a whitewash.
With that, South Africa have only 49 points in 16 matches in the Cricket World Cup Super League. They are at the 11th position on the table and are on the verge of being knocked out of direct qualification to the 2023 ODI World Cup.
However, there is a glimmer of hope in this series against India.
The explanation behind the purpose
Before we get to why this series is important for South Africa, here is a brief explanation of how qualification works in the CWC Super League.
The top 32 teams are divided into three different groups. The 12 Test-playing nations and the World Cricket League champions (2015-17), the Netherlands, play in the Super League. Whereas, the teams ranked 14th-20th will play in League 2 and the remaining 12 in the Challenge League.
From the Super League, the top eight teams (seven and one hosts) get a direct qualification to the league stages of the 2023 WC. As India are the host, they attain a direct qualification irrespective of their position on the points table. For the remaining two spots, the five lower-ranked teams from the Super League will contest qualifiers alongside the top three of League two and the top two of Qualifier Play-off (played between bottom four teams of League 2 and top two teams of Challenge League).
The positions on the table are dependent on points/match, rather than their ICC ratings. Every win is 10 points, and a tie/no-result fetches five. A point is deducted whenever the team has failed to maintain the over rate.
The purpose of this series
As mentioned earlier, South Africa are languishing at 11th on the points table of the Super League. This means, in the current situation, they have to play qualifiers to make it to the World Cup.
Each team from the Super League (13 teams) is scheduled to play 24 matches. Out of which, South Africa have played 13 and have handed three away to Australia, in a total of 16 matches. In the remaining eight matches, the only confirmed series as of now is this three-match series against India.
In February 2023, they are scheduled to play their postponed (2020) three-match series against England at home. Adding to that, South Africa have two more ODIs from their incomplete series against the Netherlands in 2021.
In eight matches, if there aren’t any slow over penalties, South Africa can attain maximum points of 129. That will happen if South Africa whitewash India in the upcoming series and England in February and win both their matches against the Netherlands.
If they lose a few ODIs, they will have to rely on other teams, especially Sri Lanka, for direct qualification.
What is South Africa’s possibility after each loss?
Barring the Netherlands, one good thing for the bottom three teams is that West Indies have played out all their 24 matches. They are not scheduled to play any further ODIs that are in the purview of the Super League in this cycle. In their 24 matches, West Indies are at eighth with 88 points.
Assuming South Africa win all their eight, they will reach 129 points. This guarantees their direct qualification as Sri Lanka can reach a maximum of 122 points in their six and Ireland can reach a maximum of 98 in their remaining three. In fact, seven wins and a tie/no-result will also see South Africa (124) finish above Sri Lanka.
But, for each loss for the Proteas, Sri Lanka will have to lose one as well. With one loss, South Africa can reach 119 points and Sri Lanka can reach a maximum of 112. Similarly, 109 and 102 with two losses, 99 and 92 with three, and 89 and 82 with four. If they lose four, both of them will be under a threat from Ireland as well. Ireland are scheduled to play three matches against Bangladesh in May 2023. If they win all three they will reach 98, higher than both of them and the West Indies.
To conclude, If South Africa win five matches out of their eight, Sri Lanka needs to lose three out of their six. Even if Ireland win all three, they cannot go past South Africa’s tally of 99.
Other teams like Afghanistan (7th) with 100 points, need three wins in 12 matches to surpass South Africa’s best possible points tally. New Zealand at fifth (110) need two wins in nine and the top four, England (125), Australia (120), Bangladesh (120) & Pakistan (120) require only one win from their six remaining matches.