By Mayur Lookhar
The pyre was was lit on Tuesday, but the smoke still ‘chokes’ the air, the mourners painfully waiting to pick the ashes.
No one has passed away, but why does every South African loss in the knock-out game of a World Cup is akin to losing a dear one. And so after South Africa failed in the semi-finals of yet another World Cup, the tears flowed on the the field, leaving a nation in deep mourning.
Deja vu! South Africa choked, South Africa were unlucky, the rain Gods conspired against the Proteas yet again. Such was the eulogy by South African fans and world over.
There’s never been a team in world cricket, whose every major loss is mourned across the world. So, it just weren’t the Proteas, but cricket fans across the world, in particularly, India expressed their condolences.
Alright, wipe your brows, open your eyes and ponder why South Africa lost again?
Simple, this was the most ineffective South African bowling attack. No genuine all-rounder. Poor selection, (quota politics). Missed opportunities on the field. You don’t take them, you simply don’t deserve to win.
While I empathise with the Proteas, truth is this sympathy wave has riding far too long with the Proteas. While I don’t like to use the word ‘choke’ truth is the South Africans aren’t good enough to win major trophies. So, please stop empathizing with them.
I heard many experts say that had it not rained then, South Africa would have scored 350. Ok, given with seven overs lost, the Proteas were denied a chance to score heavily But in the five overs after the rain break, the Proteas scored 65 runs, that’s nearly 11 an over. They lost two wickets, but comfortably reached 281. With just 5 wickets in the bank, their revised target was increased by just 17 runs.- 298.
Well, for all the talk about South Africa were on course to score 350, isn’t 298 in 43 overs akin to 350 in 50 overs. New Zealand required 298 off 258 balls, that meant the Kiwis were minus 40 down even before facing the first ball So, for them to win, it needed someone to play a blinder in the first Powerplay. Brendon McCullum did that with his whirlwind 26-ball 59. The game was on an even keel from that moment.
While AB Devilliers batted like a God, he exerted too much pressure on himself by constantly reminding the world that if his team plays to potential, NO ONE CAN STOP THEM. We will go on to win the World Cup.
By constantly chanting these mantras, Devilliers committed the most cardinal sin of looking too far head, while refusing to stay in the present. Perhaps, these lines were coined by psychologist Mike Horne, to help the Proteas get rid of the demons od ‘choke’. But in this dream, they just failed to address the present.
When the key moments, (and there were many) arrived, South Africa were found dreaming. Devilliers and his boys were so loaded with passion, emotion that they lost sight of the task at hand. The net result, they tried TOO HARD to force a result. That explained the multiple rmissed un-out chances and catches. For the first time in history, we witnessed a side paying the price for over fielding. The adrenalin rush just didn’t allow the South Africans to focus on the task at hand.
So, it wasn’t surprising to see them break down on the field. It wasn’t surprising to see people empathise with them. The Proteas and their fans will say ‘there’s always a next time’. Truth though is that this was their time to shine, this was a time where the Gods gave them ample opportunities to shine, but they spilled every one of it. Unfortunately, most members from this squad are unlikely to feature in 2019. The new faces will bring in new hope, but they will now carry a 27-year-old burden on their shoulders. Will they choke again? Only time will tell!