In and Out: Pride, platitudes and the Proteas

2015-01-25 15:00

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American poet and ­motivational writer William Arthur Ward coined a platitudinous maxim, which perhaps AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla gave credence to last Sunday at the Bull Ring in Joburg’s leafy north.

It goes: “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.”

It’s not exactly as though the Proteas batsmen have been through the most trying times of late. Their particular brand of adversity is more far-reaching, more ubiquitous, than the rough patch the likes of, say, the West Indies are experiencing in the 50-over format.

Their kind of adversity stretches back to my boyhood. It’s interspersed with lofty but ultimately meaningless glory from series wins here and there and down under; but it strikes a sour note, unlike that of the satisfying thud of willow on cork.

It was embodied by the whites of Allan Donald’s eyes when he and Lance Klusener weren’t able to seal the deal, so to speak, when they needed just one run to beat Australia in the semifinal of the 1999 World Cup, but couldn’t get it.

In 2003, they fell short to Sri Lanka in Durban – another draw, another ­embarrassing exit on the world stage, this time even before the knockout round, when the sky gods intervened and bestowed on them the “chokers” tag via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

The Aussies gave us a hiding in the 2007 semifinal, and in 2011, it was New Zealand who saw us off without breaking a sweat in the quarters.

South Africans are used to going into tournaments as favourites. A series whitewash thus far against

the Windies has instilled a sense of pride that may be ill-founded but is there never­theless.

AB’s record-breaking fastest one-day international century off just 31 balls last week made us believe, if only for the next few weeks, that 2015 might just be South Africa’s year.

So while getting disgruntled about things that went sour in my boyhood, I suppose much like Wayne ­“ParnyBoy” Parnell’s sense of style and self-respect, it might be worthwhile ­reflecting on the here and now, and ­attempting to squeeze some kind of sweet optimism out of it.

Unlike previous ICC tournaments, South Africa aren’t heading into this World Cup as favourites. This surely must come as a great relief for coach Russell Domingo because there’s slightly less pressure on him this time around to dust off his instruction manual on how to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Domingo is probably thinking along the lines of Pakistan coach Waqar Younis, who was quoted this week as saying: “I am happy we are not favourites. To be very honest, it’s big pressure being favourites.”

If Domingo wasn’t so media-shy, perhaps he’d care to elaborate a little more than Waqar and talk about pride, and his willingness to fully restore it to a limited-overs franchise that has for far too long been “dribbling at the goalposts”, to borrow a term from a sport on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Unless, of course, Domingo is a Pulp Fiction fan, and has heeded the eternally wise words of Marsellus Wallace: “Pride only hurts; it never helps.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t break the Proteas in the process.

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