Proteas and the art of “CHOKING”

Published 02/21/2015, 12:27 PM EST


It is no mystery,that over the years,the South African cricket team has gained a reputation of being perennial chokers in almost all major ICC tournaments. Despite being consistently one of the best-performing sides in all forms of cricket since their return from isolation, the Proteas have neither progressed beyond the semi-final stage at a World Cup, nor won a game during the knock-out stage of the tournament.This reputation largely arises from the following events:1992 World Cup semi-final v England, Sydney

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South Africa, chasing a target of 253, needed 22 from 13 balls, when the rain gods decided to show no mercy,causing the controversial pre-Duckworth/Lewis rain rule to imply, which deducted the opposition’s two least productive overs from the target, they needed 22 from just one ball !!Talk about luck!

1999 World Cup, semi-final v Australia, Edgbaston

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With just nine runs needed in the final over, Lance Klusener hit the first two balls for four, leaving just one run to be made from the next four deliveries,to win the match and seal his side’s place in the final;a situation any cricketer would die to be in. However, in a horrific twist of fate, a mix-up with last man Allan Donald, led to a dramatic run out ,costing the Proteas their final wicket, and yet again their place in the finale.

2003 World Cup, group match v Sri Lanka, Durban

Once again the D/L method turned out to be a thorn in the flesh for the Proteas, where another rain-interrupted game saw Mark Boucher block out what turned out to be the final ball, thinking the hosts were ahead on Duckworth/Lewis calculations. Instead, the teams were tied and Boucher was a victim of an incorrect message from the dressing room.

2011 World Cup, quarter-final v New Zealand, Dhaka

The 2011 World Cup seemed like the most appropriate time for the South African side to clinch the title,and regain their lost glory.The opportunity seemed perfect,as Graeme Smith’s men were pitted against the relatively weaker Kiwis. But keeping up with their tradition of ‘choking’they threw away a place in the final four as they buckled under the pressure yet again,and failed to chase a meager 222. At one stage they were going strong and cruising on 108 for two but then lost eight wickets for 64 to collapse to a humiliating defeat.

2013 Champions Trophy, England

A dismal batting performance from the Proteas saw them being reduced to 80-8, finally being bowled out for 175. Eventually they succumbed to a huge seven wicket loss,with England chasing down the target with relative ease. The much hyped appointment of India’s World Cup winning coach Gary Kirsten,didn’t help in overcoming their all bark no bite image either.

2014 World T20 Semi final against India, Dhaka

This time around, a good batting performance from the South African batsmen propelled them to a decent total of 172 but they couldn’t stop the rampaging Indians, from chasing the target with ease, as Rohit Sharma , Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina seemed determined to expose the chinks in their bowling armory.

 Well…

There’s no denying the fact that South Africa has been the most consistent team in the last two and a half decades. They have produced some of the finest cricketers in the past and at present have the world’s best test bowler in Dale Steyn and an elegant and classy batsmen like Hashim Amla. AB De Villiers is probably the best player when comes to limited overs cricket.

They have enjoyed a fare share of time at the top of the ICC rankings and have a decent away record as well.

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So what is it that goes wrong every time? What happens to them in crunch knockout games of major tournaments?No points for guessing,they choke.

The Chokers tag seems to have latched itself firmly onto the fate of the South African cricket team for what seems to be an eternity. The team has tried to fight it, deny it and spent years trying to prove it wrong. But sadly, when it comes to the big stage, a mix of bad luck and nerves sees them stumbling right before the finish line.

 The only people who can shed this tag are the Proteas themselves. They will once again desperately try to jump on the bandwagon in the next World Cup in Australia. Like any other tournament, they probably will start off as one of the favorites, but then the onus will be upon them to actually do what the nation has striven for,for a long long time.

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Get another bite at the cherry,and who knows,this time they might have their cake and eat it too.

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Shantanu Saha

25 articles

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