'Chokers' South Africa hope to snatch elusive World Cup

By Denzil Fernandes

Feb 11: South Africa has always been one of the strongest cricket teams in the world of cricket. However, quite surprisingly, on the international circuit they have still not been able to win anything substantial at all. Even in the World Cup in the past, they have come close to getting into the last stages of the competition but have missed the bus more by bad luck and poor planning.

While they missed the tournament from 1975 to 1987 because of the sanctions against the country, they lost to England in the 1992 semi finals by the rain rule which caught them napping. In the 1999 semi finals too they tied with Australia but missed to advance due to their loss against the Aussies in an earlier group match. They again lost of Australia in 2007 while in 2011 they were beaten by New Zealand in the quarter finals just like in 1996 where they lost to West Indies in the quarter finals. Not surprisingly, they have been called as a team of “chokers” despite their golden talent.

South Africa has always possessed some of the finest players at all times. The Pollock family, Richards, Barlow, Donald, Procter, Kallis, Goddard, Rhodes, Boucher, Kirsten, Graeme Smith and AB De Villiers have always been stars in their own right whenever they have played. With a bit of luck perhaps, the South Africans would probably have been winners of the elusive World Cup more often than not.

Now back again in the 2015 World Cup hunt the springboks look good to survive till the end. Often called as ‘chokers’ for their inferior finish in tight matches this time around they are being captained by AB De Villiers who is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant cricketers in the world. AB De Villiers is a tested and tried cricketer who can swing a match in his team’s favour with his fantastic batting, bowling or fielding which is a sheer joy to watch. Just last month he went on to hammer the fastest century in limited overs cricket when he took only 31 balls to go past the three figure mark against the West Indies. AB De Villiers has played astonishing cricket all over the world including the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he has been a star performer year after year.

South Africa will surely be a force to reckon with in the 2015 World Cup and are bound to fire on all cylinders. In their group matches they will have to tackle tough customers like India, Pakistan and West Indies apart from minnows UAE, Zimbabwe and Ireland before getting into the knock out stages. On paper at least, the South Africans look well equipped to stake a claim unless they fold like a pack of cards in their respective matches. The batting looks good with the likes of AB de Villiers, Hamla, Faf du Plessis, Duminy and Miller who are all capable of getting the required runs. They have high voltage bowlers like Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell and spinner Imran Tahir who can take quick wickets on their day.

There is no dearth of talent and one should not be surprised if the springboks sprint on to take the 2015 World Cup dethroning others in the process.

Just before the South Africans left for the World Cup South African Minister for Sports, Fikile Mbalula said at a send off reception, "We don't want you in the World Cup to add numbers and just become a bunch of losers." “Come home with the World Cup.”

New coach Russell Domingo has a task on hand. Despite winning the recent series 4-1 against West Indies convincingly he said, “Yes, we are feeling pressure and there's no hiding from that. We've never won a World Cup and it's something that's counting against us. People are calling us chokers. There's no hiding from that. We've got to stick together and make sure we win those big pressure situations."

When the springboks walk into the ground for their matches the old memories will come back to haunt them for sure. Determination and confidence is the key if these talented cricketers hope to win the coveted World Cup and show their strength. They lost an agonizing World Cup match against Australia in 1999 when Gibbs dropped a lolly pop catch given by Aussie skipper Steve Waugh, and the words of Steve Waugh reverberate even today as he said, “You just dropped the World Cup mate”. Gibbs had earlier scored a century in the same match for South Africa playeed in Headingley.

Each passing match there will be records, memories and results that will matter. For South Africa, though, it will be one big test to prove that they are no more “chokers” on the world stage. Captain AB de Villiers and his boys have to score the runs and take the wickets and rattle the opposition if they hope to win the battle at the 2015 World Cup. This is one big opportunity for the springboks to leapfrog just like the proverbial animal of that country and win the elusive World Cup ! Take that catch and win the match to snatch the Cup.

AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn.



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