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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Outlook.com
Outlook.com
Opinion

Eternal Chokers?

So do the South Africans deserve this tag after the defeat in the semis against India? No, maintain Herschelle Gibbs and Ricky Ponting.

Eternal Chokers?
Eternal Chokers?
outlookindia.com
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Speaking exclusively to Outlook, Gibbs said, "Even when I came off, there was much batting left. I had severe cramps and could not hold on to the bat any longer. In the last five overs that I batted, I had just scored 11 runs. Accordingly, I thought it was better for me to go off."

When asked what the mood in the camp was like, he was forthright is asserting, "It is still very difficult to believe what happened yesterday. We just threw the match away. Soon after I retired hurt, two quick wickets fell. That was when the match turned on its head".

Commenting on an article published in the Indian Express, where the legendary cricket writer Trevor Chesterfield has questioned the level of Gibbs' fitness, he said, "I am extremely fit. In fact the amount of fitness training that I do is way more than others. I don't think there is any problem with my fitness. It was the humidity that killed me. Yesterday, while batting, I lost more than 3.5 liters of water. This is why the cramps started."

When asked whether sending in the out of form Lance Klusener was a mistake, Gibbs said, "It is not something I can comment upon. The captain thought that it was the best thing to do in those circumstances and one can't fault him for that. We all know what Lance is capable off in the slog overs. He has done it for us a number of times in the past. I hope he will be back before the world cup and will do the job there for us."

Yesterday's match has once again thrown up the question as to whether the South Africans ‘choke’ in crunch situations. Many of their past performances help justify such an assertion.

Having won all their pool matches in the 1996 world cup, the South Africans lost their quarterfinal encounter against the West Indies. Their much famed bowling attack was plundered by Brian Lara on the occasion and the favorites were out of the competition after playing some excellent cricket in the initial stages of the tournament.

Going back further, the Hero Cup 1993 was another occasion where the South Africans choked. Needing just 6 runs from the last over, which was bowled by Sachin Tendulkar,  to qualify for the finals, they failed to achieve the target before a full house at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta.

Even in the Titan Cup final in India in 1999, the South Africans, after beating the Indians in all their pool games, lost the final. However, the best example where the South Africans choked, frittering away their hard-earned advantage, was in the World Cup 1999 semi finals against Australia where a tied match went Australia's way.

When Ricky Ponting was asked this question in this morning’s press conference at the Gregory room of the Taj Samudra in Colombo, i.e. whether he agrees with the view that the South Africans are chokers, he firmly stood behind Pollock and company dismissing the suggestion.

While he was emphatic in declaring that the South African’s had thrown away their advantage yesterday, he also asserted that such things have happened to all sides in the past. "After you lose a couple of quick wickets in these one day matches, it is not always easy to keep up the run rate", Ponting said.

Whether chokers or not, that the South Africans are a broken side was clear from the body language of their players. From among their exuberant lot, none except Jonty Rhodes and Nicky Boje came down to the lobby and it was after much persuasion that Herschelle Gibbs agreed to talk. The others, Pollock, Kallis, Donald etc were nowhere to be seen.

That this match meant much to the South Africans had been repeatedly emphasized by Pollock in his press meet leading up to the match. For a country that will be hosting the world cup in a little over four months time, in one where rugby far outstrips cricket in popularity, and one where soccer is fast catching up, it was almost required to win this competition. This loss, that too in a manner most demoralizing, will not only affect this South African cricket side but might also affect the nation’s preparation for the world cup.

For a thoroughly professional outfit as the South Africans, it is a disgrace to find many of their top players sitting out crunch ties owing to injury. Allan Donald, Allan Dawson, Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje, Funeko Ngam, Nantie Hayward, the list of injured South African players is long.

This, together with the problems with the quota system, that have plagued South African cricket in the recent past, makes their task before the world cup doubly difficult. They had surprised everyone in the 1992 world cup in Australia-New Zealand, soon after their re entry into international cricket, with their spectacular bowling and fielding. Now it is time for them to surprise us all once again proving that they are a mentally tough lot, no less than Ganguly’s Indians or Ponting’s Australians.

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