In just a few hours, the Proteas will play in the semi-final of the World Cup against Australia in Kolkata.
Normally, the South Africans’ participation in World Cup knockout matches causes more drama and heartache than your average Portuguese telenovela, but experts believe that this Protea team might cause a surprise or two.
After all, a place in the final of the international cricket spectacle is at stake.
“It is 100% within the team’s ability to win the World Cup,” Stephan Myburgh, former Dutch cricket star, told RNews.
“They have shown in the last year or two that they can deal with any team when they are at their best.”
Dr. Jacques Faul, CEO of the Titans, wholeheartedly agrees with him.
According to the skilled cricket administrator – who at the time also had to guide Cricket South Africa’s boat to a safer port – batting is one of the biggest keys to the Proteas’ success these days.
“There is definitely more dynamite in our batting order. If you talk about players who can hit the ball hard, we have never had players of the caliber of Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller in the same team,” said Faul.
“If I can compare it to the 1999 World Cup, we really only had Herschelle Gibbs who could bat quickly and then of course Lance Klusener.”
At the time, the versatile Klusener regularly pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for the South Africans with his six-hit ability in England.
“Now the Proteas have, as it were, four Lance Kluseners in the team,” is Faul’s touchstone summary.
The big “C” word
Of course the hang choke-label is still heavy around the Proteas’ necks and many supporters believe that they will only get rid of this cricket brand when they walk away with the ultimate World Cup laurels.
Yet neither Myburgh nor Faul agrees.
“In a World Cup you play against the best and yes, South Africa has been the underdog in play-offs before, but I don’t think the chokelabel is not fair. In any case, I believe it’s just a term that the cricket public uses and it’s not necessarily something the players think about that much,” said Myburgh.
According to Faul, there is a winner and a loser in every World Cup match.
“Concern England – the defending champion team – poor performances now choke attributed? Probably not. Sport comes with pressure and there are teams that win and teams that lose.”
To substantiate his statement, he referred to the one-day series between South Africa and Australia in the run-up to the World Cup tournament.
The Aussies threw away their lead after two consecutive victories to end up losing the series 3-2.
“Did they choked? They then only needed one win to clinch the series. I think it is a term that derives its origin from the anger and sadness of supporters. India is an incredible team that plays in front of its home crowd and Australia is a very good team; sometimes you just lose a cricket match.”
Winning a World Cup is not easy
Rohit Sharma and his Indian teammates are already waiting in Ahmedabad on Sunday for the team that wins today’s semi-final.
“We are good enough to win the World Cup, but of course a few things must count in our favour. In my opinion, India has not yet had a bad game in the tournament and we will definitely have to be at our very best against them.”
“I believe we have a better chance to beat Australia now. However, one can compare them to the Springbok rugby team of world cricket – they just find a way to pull the wagon through the stream,” said Faul.
According to Myburgh, there is an important factor that counts in the Proteas’ favour.
“In many of the previous World Cups, they were among the favorites to lift the silverware. This year’s team may be considered the underdog and this gives the players more freedom to play their natural game.”
- The semi-final starts at 10:30. According to weather forecasters, there is rain in the sky and if no game is possible, the Proteas can follow a direct route to the final because they finished above Australia in the group stage.