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Proteas: chokers or losers?

27 Mar 2011, 21:06 IST

It was the same old story for the Proteas as the big tournament’s ghosts returned to haunt them, knocking them out of the World Cup yet again, thus preventing them from a date with destiny that was much deserved considering the amount of promise this side showed in the recent past. It was agony for Graeme Smith and the millions of supporters back in South Africa as the Proteas failed to hold their nerves at the final hurdle yet again.

Who can forget their 1999 World Cup Semi-final debacle against Australia when Allan Donald’s last minute madness threw South Africa out of the Cup and made Lance Klusener’s brave cameo go in vain? South Africa missed a date with history that could have taken them into the cricketing ‘hall of fame’.  If that was a dramatic story, South Africa have made it a story to remember for the ages by repeating the feat of being knocked out at the final hurdle in almost every international tournament since then:  two consecutive World Cups and even in the Champions Trophies and have had the tag of ‘Chokers’ associated with them. Another World Cup has gone by and the answer to the South African conundrum is yet to be found!

Against New Zealand, the South Africans looked in control for a large part of the game as they bowled brilliantly to restrict the Kiwis to a modest total on a slow turner, and then Kallis and de Villiers built a solid partnership to put them in the driver’s seat, even after Smith failed to capitalize on a good start. After the partnership fell, the innings crumbled from 107/2 to 172/10 despite Francois du Plessis’ heroics and New Zealand rejoiced in South Africa’s misery.  This bathes to the question as to whether the appropriate tag for the Proteas is ‘chokers’ or ‘losers’, for they seem to lack the nerve to go all the way, a quality that is vital for a champion team.  After all, this South African team is one that oozes class, has produced some of the finest cricketers of recent times like Kallis, Boucher, Smith etc., that gave the mighty Australian side a tough fight every time they met them during their invincible days.  For so much quality, frankly they should have won the World Cup more often, at least reached the finals.

Graeme Smith just cannot solve the conundrum that is gripping South Africa in big tournaments

World Cup heart-break aside, another saddening aspect of this quarter-final exit is that this World Cup might the last one for a legendary player like Jacques Kallis, a man whose replacement will be hard to find.  South Africa were already missing the experience of Mark Boucher in this World Cup and will be without several experienced campaigners next time around, which would make it all the more difficult for them to clinch a major trophy next time around.

South Africa is too good a team to be without a World Cup trophy. They are the most consistent side in modern day cricket boasting an excellent bench strength apart from a strong starting XI and possessing enough beef to knock the stuffing out of any team in the world.  Watching Graeme Smith in utter despair and disarray after the defeat was a sickening sight, for he is one of the finest captains in the world, who deserves to lift a major trophy.  Before time runs out for the current crop of fine players, it’s vital that South Africa solve the big tournament conundrum that is haunting them and exorcize the demons of the past.

Edited by Zico

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