The Proteas' pressure test

Kass Naidoo (Supplied)
Kass Naidoo (Supplied)

My support of the Proteas is uncompromising - it’s 100%.

This was the way I was brought up to support my team, with my father an undiminished sports fan, whether in phases of win after win or loss after loss.

He celebrated, he moaned, he cheered, he groaned, but the light of his heart was always in support of his favourite teams, and no loss was such that he turned his back.

Just like him, I feel that support of South African teams is a matter of national pride. I consider it one of the many ways we South Africans can draw strength in our diversity. 

But recently, I have found fans starting to lose their cool way to early, even halfway through a match!

In SA’s first game of the tournament, Hashim Amla was run out with SA 232/5 in the 43rd over, after making a fine 103 off 115 balls, including five fours and 2 sixes.

And the fans choked.

Name-calling commenced and all logic was tossed out the window. But the Proteas went on to make 299/6, and convincingly beat Sri Lanka by 96 runs. The very same fans who were choking earlier, were now celebrating.

When SA lost to Pakistan, fans choked again, lamenting SA’s “loss of yet another world event”, this just two games into the Champions Trophy.

It’s becoming such a pattern that I wonder if it is fans who are choking, or the Proteas?

How do we expect the Proteas to focus and not buckle under pressure, when fans can’t stomach the pressure themselves?

I was called a CSA apologist this week, when I urged fans to show real support for the Proteas after they were accused of choking, following their loss to Pakistan in Birmingham.

Fans are the lifeblood of sport and I believe their voices should be heard. But I don’t agree with name-calling the Proteas, a characteristic more becoming of a fair weather fan than a true fan, in my eyes.

A true fan is well aware that no amount of vitriol has ever motivated a team to a tournament win of such enormous proportions, and that South Africa is not alone in this dream. Other great cricketing nations have only recently attained this singular achievement.

A true fan’s passion is that some day - hopefully soon - this team will win international glory for South Africa.

But there it is, another world event, another heart in your mouth feeling.... Such talent, such potential... Can this team finally get it together?

It’s a question we have asked since the nineties, and it’s reached a point where fans are getting restless. It’s understandable!

It’s hard being a fan, particularly an SA fan... It seems like we have been waiting an eternity for significant ICC silverware, but surely that’s no reason to start losing it in the middle of a match?

One thing’s for sure, I will not give up on the Proteas. And, as I planned finishing this column on Thursday night, I put a question out on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, and I was heartened to reaffirm that I am not alone. 

I asked: “If you could say one thing to the Proteas before Sunday’s match against India, what would it be?”

Yes, the choke-fiends lurk. In fact, the first response to my question - barely a minute after posting, was the predictable response: “Don’t choke!” But the Proteas can rest assured as they face a must-win tournament eliminator against India at the Oval on Sunday: There is plenty of true support for their quest.

This does not mean that there is no pressure. Fans want more. They want the Proteas to own the number one ranking and live up to it. They are calling for more courageous selections. Mostly, they want the Proteas to play fearless cricket.

Sunday is a good opportunity for everything to come together for the Proteas.

Good luck, South Africa!

Kass Naidoo co-hosts Cricket Tuesday on Radio 2000 alongside Andile Ncube from 18:00 to 19:00.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24. 
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