Kass Naidoo

From chokers to champs?

2007-02-21 08:43

Kass Naidoo

After South Africa hammered Pakistan by 10 wickets in the recent ODI in Cape Town, a highly-regarded South African cricket journalist suggested to me that Pakistan had thrown the match.

This person questioned how they could have batted so poorly on a good track and more so, how Mohammad Asif shifted from sniper to no-hoper in a matter of hours.

I wonder what will happen if South Africa happens to pull off a first World Cup win. Will locals still be scratching for reasons to qualify such a performance?

Some will question the validity of the Proteas' new No 1 ODI ranking. Yes, it resulted from Australia's shock five-match losing streak, but it's the first time the world champions have ever been displaced.

Confident

And, it was the Proteas who were head-and-shoulders above the rest, ready to assume that significant mantle.

Graeme Smith and his men have emerged the form team in the ODI arena. As they prepare for the World Cup, they're confident in their abilities, they shrug off pressure, and Shaun Pollock has said the team doesn't fear anyone.

It shows in their body language.

They move around as a unit, there is a sense of belonging and every member seems to genuinely enjoy his cricket.

Rewind to 2003: The South African team was desperate to show the world they could win the World Cup at home. Fans hoped a win would erase bad memories that had haunted the national team since the 1999 World Cup fiasco and the traumatic match fixing saga.

From public appearances to photo shoots, the insatiable media rush didn't stop. The Proteas were under siege, and the pressure began to take its toll.

Horribly wrong

On a rainy March evening in Durban, all hopes were finally dashed after an agonisingly tied match against Sri Lanka, which saw them crash out of the World Cup. South African cricket was at an all-time low.

I remember standing at the window of my hotel room after the match, staring across Old Fort Road at Kingsmead's brightly-lit - but eerily empty oval - wondering how it went so horribly wrong.

The team has come a long way since the shambles of 2003 and it's reflected in their performances. They're winning in style and rewarding the faithful for sticking by them through tough times.

Some will not acknowledge the progress; they will continue to thrive on conspiracy theories. To think otherwise would mean admitting that, even under a heavy yoke of transformation, SA cricket is at the top of the world.

Overall though, it's refreshing to note a trend away from the 'fan' mentality, where wins earn songs and losses court jeers.

Like today's Proteas, most supporters seem to be turning a corner!

  • Kass Naidoo is editor of gsport... for Girls!

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