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Byron Thomas
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Open letter to Paddy Upton: Nice guys finish last

19 June 2017, 13:24
Dear Paddy,
Thank you for your frank review of the Proteas mental failings that lead to another poor performance at an ICC sanctioned event.
Although I agree with your "Cowboys don't cry" theory to an extent, I also believe their issue is primarily a much simpler one but it's unfortunately a bit harder to fix.
The problem as I see it is that in cricket, as with so many other sports, nice guys finish last.
Lets call it the "Nice guys come last" hypothesis. 
Take an example from history. Probably the most dominant cricket side in recent memory was Team Australia circa 1999-2007. Waugh, Warne, McGrath, Gilchrest, Ponting and co.
A phenomenally talented team but where they that much more talented than their Protea counterparts to warrant three straight World Cup victories in a row? Probably not, so what made them such winners? Well, to put it bluntly they were not nice guys!
Arrogant, brash and downright hostile to their opponents on the field and the opposition public alike. They were merciless and the best in the world because, like most Aussies, they knew they were the best before they won their first trophy.
That innate Aussie grit that's bestowed on all of them in the womb it seems. its the simple law of attraction. You are the best because you believe you are the best.  
South Africans on the other hand are generally not renowned for their abrasive personalities. We are known for our warm hospitality and friendly smiles. Great for tourism but crap for winning cricket World Cups!
Compare David Miller's humble attitude with that of crickets bad boy and serial foot shooter Kevin Petersen. Most pundits would probably agree that KP in his prime was of comparable talent to Miller but if you had to send someone in to hit a four off the last ball of the World Cup final to save your life who would you choose?
As good as he is, I wouldn't pick David or any other South African for the simple reason that no matter how much they will deny being affected by the pressure somewhere in their nice guy minds they would contemplate the result of failure.
Compassion and doubt would sneak up on them like a Black Mamba and strike them with its neurotoxic venom resulting in dropped bats and both batsmen scrambling for the same crease etc. etc.
Whereas Kevin, bless his soul, would not give a royal rats ass about my life and be already picturing himself on the cover of The Sun basking in tabloid glory before he even hit the ball. If he fails the wound to his bullet proof ego would be superficial at worst and forgotten by morning unlike the Proteas failures that seem to accumulate in their subconscious to the point where we are no longer competing at true choker level anymore, we don't even get close!  
When two heavyweight ODI teams slug it out these days its a 50/50 game, the winner being the one who can hold their nerve the longest and its all to evident that our nice guy mental handbrake is reducing the Proteas odds of winning crunch matches to near zero. 
Case in point. Probably the best batting performance under pressure by a South African was Herschel Gibbs's monumental 175 in the Proteas epic 438 clash with Australia. How the hell did he do it if South Africans are supposed to be chokers? By his own admission in his autobiography Hersch' had a massive hangover that day after going large the night before so presumably he was more concerned with keeping his head from exploding than worrying about failing at the crease and the rest is history.
I'm not advocating that our current crop of Proteas get hammered the night before an ICC knock out match but you are a clever brain Doctor, figure out a constructive behavioural equivalent please!  
If you can crack the code on how to make a bunch of born and bred nice guys become not so nice guys and then miraculously turn them back into a nice guys once the winning is done then you would have solved the riddle of the empty Protea trophy cabinet and lifted the heavy yolk of chokers from around their necks.
For all our sakes... good luck!
No more #proteabackfire, its now #proteafiredmrniceguy
Byron Thomas

Disclaimer- Byron Thomas is a freelance journalist and sports commentator. All commentary contained in this article are his personal opinion and should be read with a shot of Tequila and taken with a pinch of salt.     
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.


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