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The pitiable Proteas

Such is the format of the World Cup that despite three defeats in a row the South Africans still have a chance to qualify for the last four

The pitiable Proteas

When any ICC tournament begins, such teams as Australia, India, South Africa, Pakistan and England are predicted as the winner as they are the top performers in the international circuit.

But when the ongoing cricket World Cup began in England, experts said that the champions would be either hosts England, Australia, India or Pakistan. But no one considered South Africa as the favourites.

The South African team proved those analyses right when they lost their first three matches, to England, Bangladesh and India. If the tournament had been played on group format, South Africa would have been out of the race for the knockout stage. But since the World Cup 2019 is being played on league basis, South Africa still have the chance to reach the semi-finals.

So far, they have been involved in four semi-finals and lost all of them.

The Proteas reached the semi-final stage in 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015.

Their misfortune started from their debut tournament, the 1992 edition, which had an idiotic method of forcing a result in case of bad weather. They needed 22 runs from 13 balls, but the rain happened, the stupid method was applied and they ended up needing 22 runs from one ball. Interestingly, this method had helped them win their league game against Pakistan.

In 1996 World Cup in the sub-continent, South Africa were eliminated in the quarter-finals despite being one of the favourites. They had been the group toppers.

In 1999 they lost to Australia. South Africa were clear favourites explosive stroke play from Lance Klusener levelled the scores. One run was needed off four balls, but a mix-up between the all-rounder and Allan Donald led to a run-out and the Aussies advanced to the final as they had finished higher than South Africa at the group stage.

The 2003 world cup that was played in South Africa was the worst tournament for them. They were knocked out at the group stage due to a misunderstanding about how many runs they needed to score in a rain-affected run chase. After the early exit, Shaun Pollock resigned as captain and Graeme Smith was appointed skipper.

In the 2007 World Cup, played in the West Indies, the Proteas qualified for the semi-final but lost to eventual champions Australia after being bowled out for 149.

In 2011 in India, South Africa were one of the top contenders for the cup as they topped the Group B with the distinction of bowling out every side they played, including hosts India. But in the quarter-final, New Zealand beat them. The Proteas batting collapsed as they lost eight wickets for just 68 runs.

The biggest setback came in the 2015 World Cup in Australia. Playing outstanding cricket in the round matches, they lost the semi-final to New Zealand in another rain-affected tie, against New Zealand.

South Africa set a tough target of 282 and after rain it was revised to 298, but unexpectedly the Kiwis chased the target off the second last ball.

Before the ongoing World Cup South Africa had played 55 World Cup matches, and won 35 with a win percentage of 65.45.

For the 2019 World Cup, South Africa landed in England with high hopes as they were ranked third in the ODI team ranking.

But the Proteas began the tournament with a heartbreaking performance as they lost their first three matches.

Just before the announcement of South African squad for the World Cup, former skipper AB de Villiers offered to take back his retirement decision, but it was turned down by the team management.

Probably the reason behind the team management and the selectors’ decision was that a recall for de Villiers would have been unfair to the players who performed well in his absence.

According to reports the offer was made in April, just 24 hours before South Africa’s selectors unveiled their final 15-man squad for the World Cup.

de Villiers announced a shock retirement in May 2018, saying he was “running out of gas” after years on the international circuit.

“I pleaded with AB de Villiers not to retire in 2018. Although there was a perception that he was picking and choosing when to play – which was not true – I did give him the option to plan and monitor his season to get him to the World Cup fresh and in a good space,” revealed CSA selector Linda Zondi.

“We made it clear that he would have to play during the home tours against Sri Lanka and Pakistan to be considered for selection. Instead he signed to play in the Pakistan and Bangladesh Premier Leagues. He turned down the offer and said he was at peace with his decision to retire.

“AB left a big vacuum when he retired. We had a year to find players at franchise level to fill the gap. We had players who put in the hard work, who put up their hands and deserved to be given the opportunity to go to the World Cup. He is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world, but above all else, we have to stay true to our morals and principles, there is no regret.”

Abraham De Villiers, 35, is the most successful batsman in the World Cup for South Africa. He played three editions: in 2007, 2011 and 2015. de Villiers scored 1207 runs with four hundreds and six fifties, averaging 63.52, with a strike rate of 117.29. He scored an unbeaten 66-ball 162 — the fastest 150 in ODI history — against West Indies in Sydney in the last edition of the World Cup.

In May this year, talking to an Indian TV channel, de Villiers had compared the IPL and the World Cup, saying the IPL was the better tournament.

“Nothing comes close to the IPL, to be honest,” de Villiers had said. “I know I am sitting in India and busy playing in the IPL, so it’s easy to say. But I have played in quite a few (tournaments) now across the world. I think it’s better than the World Cup.”

Therefore, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis has to get the best out of the available players to keep their chances alive.

Khurram Mahmood

Khurram Mahmood 2019

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