Proteas keeping cool

2015-03-18 00:00

VICTORY for the Proteas would be reward for three years of hard work, but also a giant step towards making up for 23 years of misery.

That’s the situation facing South Africa today when they take on Sri Lanka in Sydney in the first of the 2015 Cricket World Cup’s quarter-finals.

And, says AB de Villiers, he is the man to get the Proteas over their biggest hurdle in the tournament so far.

The Proteas have had an inconsistent tournament so far — with big victories over Zimbabwe, the West Indies, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates, while they lost to the two subcontinental powerhouses, India and Pakistan in the group stages.

And the biggest statistic of them all is that, if South Africa are to progress to the semi-finals of the tournament, they will have to win a World Cup ­knockout match for the first time in their history.

“It’s a very important game for us because we have planned for this for more than three years.

“The players realise that, and that is why we had today off and just had fun with each other,” De Villiers said.

“I’m pleased with how things have progressed and now it doesn’t matter what happened in the group round. If we win the World Cup, no one will ask if we played spectacular cricket in all our matches.”

The South Africans have played in and lost three World Cup semi-finals — 1992, 1999 and 2007 — but there were no quarter-finals in those years.

De Villiers was part of the campaign eight years ago, when the South Africans were defeated by seven wickets by the Australians in St Lucia.

“We are not worried about what ­happened in the past, because the most important thing is that tomorrow we are in the World Cup quarter-finals,” he said.

“In 2007, we probably concentrated on the game too much beforehand and talked about it.”

De Villiers added that he was confident in his own ability as captain, despite having his leadership credentials put under the spotlight following the dismal loss to Pakistan.

“I have been aggressive so far in the way I have led the team. I have trusted my instincts and I always try and put myself in the batsman’s shoes,” he said.

“I ask myself all the time what I would do if I were him, because I have a fairly good feel for it. I always try to make the best decision for the team. If it works, it’s great, but I realise it does not always go according to plan.”

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews was full of praise for his opposite number.

“AB is a devastating player and a legend of the game. If he gets going, it is almost impossible to stop him. We will have to get him out fast or we’re in trouble,” Mathews said.

Sri Lanka boast an impressive recent record at the World Cup. They were crowned champions in 1996 against all odds, before finishing as runners-up in 2007 and 2011 against Australia and India respectively.

According to Mathews, the team’s recipe for success in knockout cricket is


“In such matches teams often feel that they can not afford to make a mistake, and that kind of attitude is dangerous,” he said.

“You have to approach it in the same way as any other game, be aggressive and believe in yourself.”

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