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26 Mar 2011

Why do South Africa choke everytime in cricket world cup?

One time again, South Africa "choked". This is a bitter reality that goes together with this highly talented team, and despite being one of the favourites to win the world cup, they falter at some point before reaching the final destination. That started in 1992, and now it happened again, in 2011 world cup. South Africa were going smoothly, winning matches bit by bit and overcoming all the hurdles that came before them. They topped the group that included other favourites like India and England. But, they unexpectedly went down against the unexpected team, New Zealand. Seeing the poor form of New Zealand in last few series where they lost heavily against Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, nobody has kept New Zealand at same level to South Africa. They surely amazed everyone by defeating Pakistan and qualifying for the quarters, but nobody had expected that they could extend their journey beyond that. Now that the Protreas are out of the world cup, we could try to know what went wrong for them and why are they not a "winning" material despite being a great team.

Choking moment for South Africa

1. 1992 World Cup: South Africa were going well while chasing 252 runs set by England in the semi-final. They needed 22 runs from 13 balls to win the match, but the rain came as villain to wash away their dreams.

The unusual rules came into play and South African got the revised target to chase: 22 runs in 1 ball. South African eventually lost the match by 19 runs and were knocked out of the world cup.

2. 1996 World Cup:South Africa were hot favourite to win the title, and they proved their strength by winning all the matches at group stage. At quarterfinal, they were sidelined by the weak West Indies. Chasing 247 to win, they were going fine at one stage, scoring 186 at the loss of 4 wickets. But Carl Hooper came to rescue for West Indians, who took 4 wickets to stop Protreas for 245.

3. 1999 World Cup: Who could forget the famous tie between Australia and South Africa in semi-final, that cost yet another world cup for Protreas? The effort of Lance Klusner went in vain when he could not manage a single run to win in last over. Australia showed their killer instinct and mounted pressure on the batsmen even when the score was tie. A great match and yet another "choking" moment for South Africa.
An unfortunate run out that cost South Africa a world cup in 1999

4. 2003 World Cup: South Africa were out from the group stage after the controversial tie against Sri Lanka. The miscalculation to win in the rain affected match caused the confusion. South African calculated score of 229 run to win according to Durkworth-Lewis method. Mark Boucher, who took score to 229 with a six, defended the last ball safely before the match was interrupted due to rain. South Africa hoped they had won, but later they realised that 229 was the score to tie and not to win. They lagged behind New Zealand in points and had to exit from the world cup.

5. 2007 World Cup: South Africa did great to qualify for semi-final, but Australia became the big hurdle for them. Batting first, South Africa managed only 149 runs, not good enough to challenge the world champion Australia, who won the match convincingly by 7 wickets.

And now, 2011 World Cup: Yet again, South Africa lost their winning momentum at the crucial stage. Chasing the easy looking score of 221 set by New Zealand, South Africa were stopped at 172 runs, despite being at 108 for 2 at one stage. The middle order collapsed dramatically; credit should be given to the extraordinary bowling and fielding of New Zealand.

After reviewing every world cup matches, we can understand that the two crucial factors came into effect for the loss of Proteas:

1. Luck: Bad luck played a part for their exit in world cup 1992 and 2003, when they were heading towards a comfortable win. Bad luck came in the form of weird rules and regulations ICC had at that time.

2. Pressure: It is evident that South Africans could not cope the heavy pressure of competing in the important matches. The world cups of 1996, 1999, 2007 and 2011 illustrated their mental frame during the crucial stages.

South Africa are formidable but lack the characteristics of champions. They have star batsmen like Amla, Kallis and DeVellier, super paceman in the form of Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe and dangerous spinners like Tahir, Botha and Peterson. They are one of the best fielding side of the world, but as a team, they were lacking balance and consistency. We saw their problem in the middle and lower order in a series against India earlier this year, and I think they had little time to reconfigure their team.

Graeme Smith could not remove the "Choker" tag from his team as promised. Now, South Africa need to wait another 4 years to prove them once again.

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