Proteas make way back to SA after miserable World Cup run

2011-03-26 14:28

South Africa’s cricketers will see the dreaded “chokers” term in nearly every newspaper headline they look at when they return home today following yet another World Cup failure.

The squad will brace itself for a backlash from a heavily critical media and bitterly disappointed fans.

South African newspapers blasted the team for its apparent inability to again handle the pressure of big matches after another defeat in a World Cup knockout game with Friday’s quarterfinal loss to New Zealand.

It continues a horror World Cup run for the country, which has lost every knockout match it has played at the tournament.

The Proteas appeared to be on course for victory chasing a modest score against the Black Caps in Bangladesh, before losing eight wickets for 64 runs to crash out of the tournament.

South Africa has now fallen short in two World Cup quarterfinals and three semifinals in six World Cup appearances.

The team was eliminated in the first round in its home event in 2003.

This year, Graeme Smith’s team had topped its group and was again considered one of the contenders for the title before the shock 49-run defeat to the Kiwis.

“What a choke!” said the Citizen newspaper on its front page today, accompanied by a photograph of Smith walking back to the dressing room after he was dismissed and New Zealand’s fielders celebrating behind him.

The Afrikaans-language Beeld used the same photo on its front page with the headline: “Horrible! Super-chokers do it again.”

The Star led its sports section with the headline “Chokers!” in large black letters, adding: “More mental meltdown misery as Kiwis klap (smack) SA out of World Cup.”

On the front page of The Star there was a photograph of Smith, head bowed, and the caption: “Horror as Proteas choke again.” The Sowetan tabloid said: “Here’s Why SA Players are Called The Chokers.”

South Africa’s squad is set to fly to Johannesburg later today and is already preparing itself for a grilling from its own media.

Coach Corrie van Zyl will appear at a news conference alongside South Africa Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula tomorrow, according to Cricket South Africa. Van Zyl had already decided to step down as coach following the World Cup.

Smith, who was also already set to resign from the one-day captaincy after the tournament, said yesterday in Dhaka that he expected “daggers and swords” to be directed at his team on its return home after an all too familiar World Cup failure.

“There’s nothing I can say right now that’ll make the fans feel better,” Smith said. “We feel terrible. We’ve given our best and today we let ourselves down and we let a lot of people down. There’s no excuses for that.

“When the team goes home there’s going to be daggers and swords thrown and whatever. There’s a group of 25 people here that have just got to take it on the chin,” Smith added.

The Star said a “crestfallen” Smith was now readying himself “for his toughest battle yet – bitter fans”.

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