Proteas must bloom at World Cup

2011-02-19 19:37

Will it be sixth-time lucky for the Proteas?

From the fairytale, Steve ­Tshwete-inspired debut in the game’s greatest event in 1992, to the humiliating capitulation against Australia in the semifinals four years ago, it has been a ­roller-coaster ride of emotions – many high, but all ending on a low.

Twenty years ago, a naive but exuberant South African team were denied a place in the final by a ludicrous rule which changed the target in the final overs from 21 runs from 13 balls to 21 from a single delivery when rain fell for barely 25 minutes.

Those who witnessed the sight of then sports minister Tshwete consoling a tearful Peter Kirsten in the changing room will never ­forget it.

Neither man thought beyond emotion at the time, but it was – and remains – an iconic moment in the transformation of the game.

Four years later, a far more worldly team was blinded by the brilliance of Brian Lara’s century in the quarterfinals and then, perhaps the best team South Africa has sent to the World Cup, ­suffered the horror of a semifinal elimination against Australia, ­despite the game finishing in a tie.

Lance Klusener and last man ­Allan Donald had four balls to score one run but a nightmare ­run-out ended their dreams.

In 2003, on home soil, the dream ended in even more desperate circumstances when Mark Boucher blocked what turned out to be the final ball from Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah ­Muralitharan in the belief that the team had scored enough to win on the Duckworth-Lewis calculation with rain falling steadily at ­Kingsmead in Durban.

In fact, their score was only enough to tie. And the Proteas lost out at the group stage.

Finally, four years ago, it was the second time they suffered the ­ignominy of defeat to Australia at the semifinal stage when the tournament was held in the ­Caribbean.

Despite their protestations to the contrary, the team – especially the batsmen – did not cope with the pressure of the situation and collapsed miserably.

At 27/5 inside the first 10 overs, the game was over.

So, given the misfortunes of the past, what should the class of 2011 do and not do to change the fortunes of the nation this time around?
The do’s:

» Forget the past. Only four of the 15-man squad this time have ever played in a World Cup so there is no point in them trying to
“correct” the errors of previous World Cup campaigns.

» Trust their instincts. Play the way that earned them their selection, not the way a World Cup “should” be played.

» Be bold enough to play spinners, including Pakistan-born leggy ­Imran Tahir, who can be a ­match-winner in these conditions.

The don’ts:

» Leave the middle order ­exposed. The Proteas’ top five batsmen are all ranked in the world’s top 20 – why leave newcomers Faf du ­Plessis or Colin ­Ingram exposed in a pressure situation batting at numbers six and seven?

» Try to keep too many overs in hand for the “big name” bowlers for the final overs of the innings.

The “big three”: Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel are all ranked in the world’s top three – use them to take wickets and win the match before it gets to the final overs.

» Read the newspapers. Already the pundits have moved the ­Proteas up from fifth favourites to second on the basis of their ­demolition of minnows Zimbabwe and defending champions ­Australia in their two warm-up matches.

If they read the press, they might believe it.



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