Proteas could be ready to lift World Cup trophy

2015-01-30 00:00

IT was 16 years ago, on June 17, 1999, at Edgbaston, that the world stopped moving for millions of South Africans. Without going into detail it was that World Cup ­semi-final against Australia when certain victory became a pall of ­devastating defeat when Allan ­Donald ran, stopped, dropped his bat and the Proteas crashed out of the competition.

Former cricketing great and one of the world’s leading all-rounders in his prime Mike Procter has said the Protea dressing room after the match was one of the worst places he had ever been in his career, the cloud of defeat and disappointment a strangling cancer at the time.

The images and thoughts from that match still haunt us as a proud cricket nation and it has taken many years to recover and stand tall, finding the players and combinations to attempt to erase the horror of it all.

Many have tried but we continue to come up short, falling back on that moment and wondering what could have been if we had secured that one run that would have taken us to the final against Pakistan.

Cricket is a strange game, largely unpredictable, with what seem foregone results often turned on their heads due to a moment of individual brilliance or thoroughbred players having a bad day and failing to perform.

Without sounding too optimistic — which is dangerous ground when talking cricket — maybe, just maybe, South Africa have regrouped and are ready to take on the hoodoo of the World Cup and go the distance this time around.

Yes, it’s a big call and an even bigger statement to make, especially after losing 4-1 to Australia toward the end of last year. Many will also feel the current 4-1 ODI series win against the West Indies is nothing to write home about, considering the status and strength of ­Caribbean cricket these days.

That may be true, but let’s narrow it down to what we have and why we should be one of the favourites to walk onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the final on March 29.

The series against the West Indies has seen the coming of age of what is considered the next generation of Protea ODI players. The tried and trusted names — Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis — are in a class of their own and would like nothing more than to add a World Cup ­triumph to their already impressive conquests. They know what it takes, they know it’s all about delivering the goods on the day, when it counts.

Behind them come players such as Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell — players who, if the gods conspire to deny us once more — are young enough to return in four years for another bite of the cherry.

However, it’s these younger ­players who have stepped up to the mark this time around and could be the sharpest arrows in the bag come the defining moment.

De Kock has shown what he can do, while Rossouw, although a little inconsistent, has displayed his ­talent with two superb centuries against the West Indies. Miller has notched his maiden ODI ton and the hunger in his eyes should strike fear into any opponent. Abbott has ­battled up front as a strike bowler, but the law of averages states his moment will come soon. Perhaps at the World Cup?

Parnell, when he gets it right, is a tricky customer and with these players backing up the seasoned campaigners, this could be our year.

If cricket was like a Formula One race, where the best prepared car normally wins, we would be out of sight come the first bend.

It’s of course a different theory all together, but lets take solace from former SA captain Kepler Wessels who said of Hashim Amla after the West Indian ODI series: “He is the best of the best” — and he is on our side.

Add the World Cup to his CV and he will be the latest addition to ­Marvel’s superheroes.

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