Sport

The Proteas choked, wear it like armour boys

2017-06-13 12:16

I had not uttered the infamous C-word until late on Sunday night as I caught up on the aftermath of South Africa’s dramatic knock-out by India earlier during the day.

We have lost all but one ICC tournament.

Yes we were unlucky in that one rain-affected game in 1992 when we needed 22 off one ball.

But when has the rain ever loved the Proteas? (Ask Shaun Pollock about 2003)

So, after another choke, loss and exit, I was intrigued to hear AB de Villiers’ post-match comments and his press conference.

First, he mentioned the slow run rate in the first 15-20 overs, twice.

He cited this as a factor adding to the loss.

I will concede that the run-rate was indeed slow (SA had the lowest run-rate in the first 15 overs of any team in the tournament).

But for the opening pair of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, who normally blitz through the power plays and usually finish on a strike rate of more than 100, their history in this tournament has been to start slow.

And against Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah (who got the man of the match award) I too would plan to see them off and face the spinners who we’ve BEEN practising for.

Saying that the start was not part of the plan is slightly disingenuous.

If anything, we lost our openers at the crucial juncture when they needed to kick on.

Second, three runouts is unacceptable for the number one ranked team especially for a team who, on numerous occasions, said they were composed, calm and mentally ready.

A runout opportunity is like playing Russian roulette with your life.

You might gain a deep sense of value afterwards but only if you survive, and South Africa don’t seem to survive in big tournaments.

In our previous three Champions Trophy campaigns, we’ve been run out at least once every game and in 14 ICC ODI games we’ve had 11 runouts.

You do need to accelerate the run rate at some stage, but risky singles or a stolen run here and there is not worth the added pressure and nerves.

Third, and this is what gets me, we still cannot accept that we choked.

Not even a slight mention of it at the post-match presentation (granted it was Pollock who was conducting the interviews, so it might have hit too close to home) but neither was it mentioned in the press conference.

De Villiers (and the fans) have had to face this exit scene now on 14 ODI occasions. Seven of which he has been a part of.

Yet we cannot even begin to form the word in our throats, the letters gag us, we search for water, cough at the mere mention of it, use any other word lest the very thought of the word chokes us up.

We must acknowledge the fact that in eight Champions Trophy tournaments the Proteas have won one, lost one and choked six times now.

Euphemisms, vagueness and skilful word play will not be used by our detractors, and why should it be used by us?

Just ask Gary Kirsten who, in the last Champions Trophy in 2013, when we crashed out to England at the Oval (I mean really, how many signs do you need), admitted candidly that “we did choke the game ... it’s an uncomfortable word but you’ve got to be comfortable with it.” 

Boys, I truly believe, in my lifetime, I will see a World-Cup-winning and Champions-Trophy-lifting South African cricket outfit.

We have the Under-19 World Cup now for the big one.

Yesterday the British press slated us, with one Lawrence Booth going the full monty saying the Proteas “choked so badly not even Dr Henry Heimlich and his airways-freeing manoeuvre could have saved them”.

To paraphrase a dwarf, let me give you some advice, my dear Proteas:

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour, and it can never be used to hurt you.” 

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May 31 2020