One question that has bewildered most of the cricket fans is: Why do South Africa choke in major ICC tournaments? It’s hard to fathom that a team that boasts of such immense talent in their side almost always finds a way to press the panic button in knockout games.
Building up to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, if there were two favourites on every cricket pundit’s mind they were England and South Africa. Before the start of the Champions Trophy they were the number one ranked side for a reason. Having routed the Sri Lankans at home 5-0 in February, they moved from one successful series to another by defeating the Black Caps at their home in the month of March.
The tour of England right before the start of the Champions Trophy promised to be the best preparation for the Proteas to get used to the English conditions. Even though they lost the ODI series 2-1, their performance was more than impressive.
They lost the second ODI by a narrow margin of 2 runs and in the final match they had the mighty English batting line up reeling at 20-6 which the Proteas went on to win comfortably. They have constantly shown the world it’s rich talent and pedigree, since it’s return to International Cricket in 1991 after being suspended from international cricket due to the brutal apartheid policy.
It is very confounding to know that South Africa since their return have won only one major ICC tournament which was the Champions Trophy back in 1998. Since then it has never been able to make it to the final of the tournament. More surprisingly, barring Bangladesh, they are the only team from the current top eight ODI teams that have failed to make it to the final of any ICC World Cup.
The Proteas started their Champions Trophy campaign against a very inexperienced Sri Lankan side which ended up being a walk in the park for them. In their second match against Pakistan, just when the South African bowlers had started to trouble the opposition, rain played spoilsport in a match that could have had a different result.
However, taking nothing away from Pakistan who pulled off an upset to revive their campaign. This victory and India’s surprising loss to Sri Lanka suddenly opened up the battle in Group B, leading to the all important virtual quarter final between India and South Africa.
The pressure of the big knockout game would have certainly been playing on in the minds of both the teams but it was South Africa that succumbed to it eventually. Having been put into bat by the Indians, the openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock were off to a steady start before being sent back to the pavilion by the Indian spin twins. Just when it seemed that they were all set to put up a big total on the board they triggered two run outs in the space of two overs which led to a batting collapse
They had pressed the panic button again. The team crumbled to a total of 191 after losing 9 wickets for just 75 runs. A target of 192 for India with the ‘King of chase’ Virat Kohli raring to go at the bowlers, became a cakewalk for them, completing it with 8 wickets to spare. The Proteas were humbled again in a must-win situation. There were many questions left unanswered. What happened in the run-outs of AB de Villiers and David Miller? Why did the rest of the team falter thereafter? What needs to be done to end this cycle of disappointment in knockout games?
Everyone has been asking the same questions about this frustrating repetitiveness in crunch games. But it seems nobody within the team has any satisfactory answers. “I can’t explain to you exactly what happens,” said a dejected de Villiers in the post-match press conference.
With powerful forces like Amla and de Villiers in their side, a false sense of flawlessness has prevailed which could prove detrimental in their efforts to clinch the ICC World Cup in 2019. Approaching every major tournament by banking upon Amla and even more on de Villiers to take them across the line hasn’t paid dividends for the Proteas and they have missed the inevitable element of teamwork in their performance.
When all is said and done, a team with South Africa’s collective potential desperately needs to pull itself together to fulfill the high expectations that the fans have from them, keeping in mind that their marquee players don’t have the luxury of time.