Winner takes it all

2014-04-04 00:00

REGARDLESS of the outcome in today’s World Twenty20 semi-final between the Proteas and India, it would be unfair to dig up that irritating word “chokers” which always jumps out the closet whenever our national team are involved in a vital match.

Yes, we all know it’s a make or break match; we haven’t won an ICC event since last century, we are vulnerable against spin … the list of negatives goes on, but let’s be honest, this is one semi-final where the Proteas do not have a massive halo of expectancy hanging over them or the price tag of being the best team in the tournament, meaning they have to perform.

We should be cracking open the champagne for them getting this far alone. Losing their first match against Sri Lanka already saw thousands of so-called fans jump off the bus in disappointment, but for those who have stuck around for the ride, it’s been more than the average thrilling adrenaline rush.

The two narrow wins against New Zealand and the Netherlands are in the past. Who really cares about that now? We are in the semi-final and it’s a whole new game, different opposition and at the end of nearly 40 overs later today, our fate would have been sealed. There will be joy or sadness, criticism or celebration but either way, still enjoy the champagne.

For a side who have battled in this format of the game in recent times, it’s a fine achievement to be where they are. It’s like an outsider winning the Durban July. There’s no pressure, hardly anyone notices the beast, but when it comes through, the story is written in in history.

But pressure is the key today. For Protea skipper Faf du Plessis, the recipe to book a place in Sunday’s final is simple — key decision-making in pressure situations. There’s no second chance now. The winner takes all.

“We have felt before that it was our time to perform when it mattered at an important tournament and it has not worked out,” Du Plessis said yesterday. “Let’s be honest. India are the favourites and we are definitely the underdogs with no one really giving us a chance before and sometimes during the tournament.”

Du Plessis has faith and belief in his team though. “We have been playing well as a team with different players performing in each game,” he said.

“We have not relied on many individual performances and in such a high-pressure game, working as a team is vital. It will be important to play the key moments right and make correct decisions at crucial times.

“If we accomplish that, we will come out on top.”

In seven previous international T20 clashes between the sides, India hold a 5-2 lead and playing on the sub-continent, plus their record in winning major tournaments does, in Du Plessis’s eyes, give them the edge.

“It’s about how you play on the day and we have pulled through some tough situations with our never say die resilience,” he said. “There is pressure whenever you play for your country and it’s the age old formula of doing the basics well.”

As for the spin factor, Du Plessis said the management would look at conditions and make a call whether a second frontline spinner would be employed.

“We will see if it’s conducive to spin in the women’s World Twenty20 semi between our ladies and England before deciding.

“If it’s a good wicket, we will pick up where we left off in Chittagong,” he said.

Today’s match will be telecast on SuperSport 2 and HD2 from 2.30 pm.

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