CWC 2015: An ordinary bloke's advice to the Proteas

2015-02-06 09:46

The Cricket World Cup 2015 kicks off next week Friday the 13th Feb with Sri Lanka versus New Zealand in Christchurch. Click here for a full list of fixtures. Cricket lovers can look forward to not one, not two but six consecutive weeks of top level cricket. South Africa's first two games are on Sundays 15 Feb; 22 Feb and then Friday 27 Feb so diarise those dates so long. The time difference means we will be watching cricket in the wee hours of the morning.

A function was held in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg to send off the Proteas to Australia and New Zealand. It reminded me of a similar send off for the Boks to the 2011 Rugby World Cup with Peter de Villiers still coach at the time. There had been some lows but also promising signs and many Bok fans - and I include myself here- felt that if we could just make it to the Final, we would go all the way. As a rugby fanatic occasions like these are quite emotional to me. Speaker after speaker would come and address the crowd: the captain, the coach, the president of SARU and of course the Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula. It was on this occasion that he uttered the words 'Gaan moer hulle' which resonated powerfully with the crowd. I think he received a standing ovation for it. Unfortunately things did not turn out as expected. The key take-away from that tournament was one name 'Bryce Lawrence' - we leave it at that.

No doubt there would have been similar speeches earlier this week. It is not difficult to figure out what the common theme of speeches would have been. If one considers that South Africa has never won the tournament despite all the talent and passion for the game, then it is understandable that there would be a mixture of excitement and a little bit of anxiety in the camp. So as the team touches down Down Under, it could take something as insignificant as a reporter to say something silly like: 'And here is the team who has never won it before' to disturb the mental equilibrium. Inevitably the tag of 'chokers' may rear its ugly head in discussions about the team's readiness this time round. It would also not surprise me if someone like Shane Warne (or any of the other Australian greats) strike the first mental blow and say something to the effect that the Proteas will do well, but will probably stumble over the last few hurdles, like they have done all the other six times. This is our track record after all.

So yes we have never won the tournament. Eina! Australia has done it 4x; West Indies and India 2x and Pakistan and Sri Lanka 1x. It's only the second time that the tournament is hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The last time it was in 1992 and Pakistan emerged as the champion on that occasion.

As an ordinary but passionate South African sports fan, I would have loved to share these nuggets with the team as they wrap up their final preparations. So if I was one of the speakers at the Melrose Arch Function, this is what I would have said to the team:

1. You guys are champions already - we are ranked No 1 in Test Cricket, 3rd in ODIs and have consistently beaten the top teams in the world in all formats of the game

2. You have all the necessary experience - the transition since the departure of Graeme Smith has been smooth and we now have several senior leaders in the squad; it is their

collective responsibility (not AB's alone) to guide the younger ones through the tough times

3. You are very familiar with the playing conditions in Australia and New Zealand having toured there manytimes and again fairly recently. Mike Hussey's input as consultant may

also come in handy but don't share too many secrets with him, if you know what I mean :-)

4. While there, forget about the country, the fans and any other popular theme that pops up during times like these and just play in the moment; if you do well we will be happy

and if you have not such a good day we will be disappointed with you, but our support will not be shaken

5. Don't fear failure; instead go there with the mindset to win this thing for yourselves first and foremost; inevitably tough situations will arise but you will emerge

victorious only if you want it more than the opponents

6. The only relevance of the previous tournaments is that we can learn from those mistakes. Unshackle yourself from the past and create a better future for those coming after you

And finally gents: Enjoy it! It is such a privilege to represent your country in a tournament of this nature; there are many illustrious cricketers (past and present) who would love to have done so. But you are there, so the best you can do is to give it your all, one game at a time. Express yourselves, do the basics well and the scoreboard will be your friend!

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