"We needed to make sure that that elephant was out of that room" - Dale Steyn recalls the emotions after the 2015 World Cup semi-final agony

Dale Steyn and Ab de Villiers were at the center of a painful end for South Africa
Dale Steyn and Ab de Villiers were at the center of a painful end for South Africa

Former South African pacer Dale Steyn recalled the painful memories of their semi-final heartbreak of the 2015 World Cup against New Zealand in Auckland. It was a continuation of agonizing World Cup endings for the Proteas, who have failed to cross the final hurdle at the knockout stages.

In what felt like a golden opportunity to reach their first World Cup final, the South Africans failed to defend a massive 297 from 43 overs. With five runs needed off two balls, Grant Elliott smashed Steyn for a humungous six to crush South African hopes and bring several players to tears.

In a conversation with ESPNcricinfo, Steyn recalled how the players dealt with the gut-wrenching defeat.

"I think we dealt with it really well in that 24 hours, and then we went home and everyone went our own way," Steyn stated. "But getting together the next time as a South African team and walking back to the dressing room, I felt like we hadn't spoken about what happened few months ago. And we needed to make sure that that elephant was out of that room. It was certainly still in the room for what I felt was a long time."

Being one of the senior players, Dale Steyn opened up about how he wore a smile and remained professional about it.

"I went into the dressing room and I sat down and I was like 'this is where you have to be the true professional you are. You are a senior player,'" he continued. "I went around to some of the younger guys, the Quinton de Kocks. Morne [Morkel] was incredibly upset, visibly upset even on TV.
"But I thought to the public eye, when you're on TV, you have to maintain that professional image. Put a smile on your face, be professional when you've been beaten in a big game."

He also spoke about picking up the morale of the other players in the dressing room in the aftermath of the game.

"You've got to take the losses with the wins and the good with the bad. But as soon as you get in the dressing room, my role was to pick up all the players around me. And that was very heavy. We all kind of went to our rooms that night, I'm sure everyone was upset," Steyn stated.

The champion cricketer said it was only after a year or two that they started to address it as a team.

"The next morning there was a group message, 'guys, there's a breakfast planned somewhere', and we all got together," Steyn added. "Then it was as if the night before never happened. We tried to move on as quickly as we could.

"A year or two years after that had happened, did we start to address it as a team. As individuals, everyone dealt with it their own way. But as a team, we hadn't unraveled it or spoken about it."

Dale Steyn endured a dismal outing in the New Zealand clash, finishing with figures of 1/76 in his 8.5 overs.

It was the Proteas' fourth semi-final loss in as many tries in ODI World Cups, following heartbreaks in 1992, 1999, and 2007.

"They're more battle-hardened now" - Dale Steyn

The current crop has yet another opportunity to break South Africa's World Cup jinx.
The current crop has yet another opportunity to break South Africa's World Cup jinx.

Dale Steyn believes that his generation of South African players and the current bunch do not feel the baggage of the past World Cup failures, thanks to more ICC tournaments being played across formats.

South Africa have won only the solitary ICC title in the 1998 Champions Trophy and have often been weighed down by the massive expectations.

"They're more battle-hardened now. From 1999 through all those years, there was one World Cup every four years. Now it feels like there's a World Cup every year, be it 50-over or 20-over and a lot of these players are participating in all of them. So they've learnt how to handle losing, going home, and preparing for the next one happening in a very short time," Steyn said.

He concluded by stating the current side is ready to overcome the big-match hurdles.

"For this one, they are as ready as they can be. It can feel like they've had baggage for a very long time, they've lost out on other World Cups due to simple things - maybe net run-rate…. but certainly not for bad cricket," concluded Steyn.

South Africa surprised several fans and experts by finishing second on the points table at the end of the league stages with seven wins in nine outings.

They will take on perennial foes Australia in the semi-final in a repeat of the 1999 and 2007 editions at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday, November 16.

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Edited by Ankush Das
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