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South Africa at World Cup – Chokers Yes, But Some Bad Luck as Well

South African Cricket Team and ICC World Cup’s relationship in the last 27-28 years has truly been amusing.

Updated
South African Cricket Team and ICC World Cup’s relationship in the last 27-28 years has truly been amusing
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Some relationships in the world of sports are amazingly intriguing. These are the relationships, where bonhomie never clicks. In the eighties, despite ruling at each venue and court, Ivan Lendl could never succeed at the Wimbledon. Netherlands could never win the FIFA World Cup. In the recent past, a star-studded and flamboyant Royal Challengers Bangalore have always wandered in the Indian Premier League.

Add one more pair to the list – South African Cricket Team and ICC World Cup.

This relationship for the last 27-28 years has truly been amusing – a kind of homogenous mixture of bad luck and the typical trait of choking.

Just three months after their comeback to international cricket, South Africa played its first World Cup in Australia during February-March 1992.
Just three months after their comeback to international cricket, South Africa played its first World Cup in Australia during February-March 1992.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/deepiceman)

Just three months after their comeback to international cricket after years of isolation due its apartheid policies, South Africa played its first World Cup in Australia during February-March 1992. They were outstanding and seemingly untouched from the years of oblivion. But just when they were set to eliminate England in the semi-final, the cruel and infamous rain-rule struck them. The Proteas needed 22 runs off 13 balls. But after the game was interrupted for a few minutes, the target was revised to 22 runs off 1 ball.

The large screen at SCG flashing a target of 22 runs off 1 ball has to date been one of the most illustrated pictures of that 1992 World Cup.

The Cup which South Africa missed in 1992 is still eluding them and that wait will now continue till at least 2023.

In 1996, South Africa were a strong side and hot favourites; they topped their group and won all the matches. Brian Lara, however, played a spirited knock in the quarter-final and knocked South Africa out. This was the same West Indies side, which finished fourth in the other group among six teams and had even lost to minnows Kenya just a few days before that.

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The biggest heartbreak for South Africa came at the 1999 World Cup.
The biggest heartbreak for South Africa came at the 1999 World Cup.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ICC)

The biggest heartbreak though came in 1999. To say the least, it was an epic failure on South Africa’s part. It was an example of how you get chance after chance, but blow them away and manage to choke every time.

First South Africa could have knocked Australia out in the Super Six match, had Herschelle Gibbs not dropped that utterly simple catch to get rid of Steve Waugh. Then in the semi-final after a heroic effort, Lance Klusener messed it with that ridiculous run out, while he still had two more balls to score the single run they needed to win the match.

The saga at 2003 is equally intriguing. Playing at home, South Africa failed to sail to the Super Six stage. The Proteas had to win their last match league match against Sri Lanka, which eventually ended up being a tie. In an utterly embarrassing fashion captain, Shaun Pollock misread the D/L par score. It was a fatal mistake.

In 2007 and 2011, the side looked good but batting choked in an extremely bizarre fashion in the semi-finals against Australia and quarter-finals against New Zealand, respectively.

In 2015, it was sheer bad luck for the Proteas yet again. They were set to win but on the penultimate ball, Elliott sent the ball off Dale Steyn out of the park. The sight of a sobbing South African team including the legend AB de Villiers was truly heart-melting. South Africa had played well on this occasion, but Elliott’s extraordinary shot took all of it away. Once again, sheer bad luck.

The sight of a sobbing South African team after the 2015 World Cup was truly heart-melting.
The sight of a sobbing South African team after the 2015 World Cup was truly heart-melting.
(Photo: The Quint)
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No Luck in 2019 Either

In the ongoing Cricket World Cup, South Africa’s challenge is already over. Their first setback was Dale Steyn being ruled out of the tournament. Then their tendency to choke at the World Cup resurfaced in the match against New Zealand, which they lost form the pole position – an important match, which they desperately needed to win. With the loss against a rather demoralised Pakistan, the Proteas themselves have sealed their fate in WC 2019.

And having played in eight editions of the quadrennial tournament, this is certainly much below par their overall stature and performance in the world cricket. During this period they have won the ICC Champions Trophy once in 1998 and have defeated all the sides regularly. Australia’s record in the World Cup in unmatchable but during this period even other teams like Sri Lanka have played in the three finals, and India and Pakistan in two each.

As one of the possible explanations, there seems to be a bit of cascading effect there. They choked once and when played next, possibly they were under pressure not to choke again as the past was looming but then again choked due to this pressure; and the story continues.

With their campaign at the 2019 edition also over, the key for South Africa going forward, would be not to let their past record take over them.

The reasons notwithstanding, the consistency with which South Africa chokes at the World Cup and the bad fortune that keeps hitting them, is extremely amusing.

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(The writer is an IIT graduate with a passion for sports, history and politics and can be reached at @pankajag1973)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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