I’ve had to come to terms with it pretty quickly. It’s not like I had a choice, anyway, because just hours after the fatal 49-run loss to Pakistan, I would have to explain myself on a public platform for having faith in a team that had faltered so horribly in the first few games. It would be one of the first few things I would have to do come Monday morning, unfortunately, because I wake up very early every day to be on air talking sport.
I would have to explain the Proteas’ disastrous World Cup capitulation to my colleagues and our entire audience – the former would probably threaten to end my life if I dared to suggest another topic for this particular Monday. What with their insatiable desire to prove that I’m always wrong – even when I’m not – because they just love to see me lose. And so, because it’s been proven now that I was definitely wrong about the Proteas making the semi-finals, I would have to account.
For a minute or five, or ten, or however long they would decide to keep my microphone on during that part of our show, I would play Ottis Gibson to the Cricket SA suits. But this time I don’t mind, because I was indeed wrong and have never been one to avoid admitting it whenever I am, and because the horrible showing in England and Wales doesn’t make my beloved Proteas a poor team.
They were just poor in the tournament, that’s it. Completely outplayed by all but one of the seven teams they have come up against so far. You can go as far as saying they’ve chocked yet again, because I know a lot of the armchair critics are dying to use the word, to give the team exaggerated flak because they’ve had a bad run of form for the first time in who knows how long?
But I don’t intend on defending the boys here, because they have earned the criticism they are getting, or most of it, at least. I, for one, can’t even explain what happened. Even more surprised because they went into the World Cup in red-hot form in the one-dayers. They had just completed impressive series wins against the selfsame Pakistan and Sri Lanka here at home, and looked unbeatable at some point. But in the UK, they couldn’t build a really solid batting partnership if their lives depended on it. The death bowling would have you dead – it was an embarrassment. The Proteas were way off their own standards, never mind those of the opponents.
So, what does one call that, pressure? Inexperience, given that players such as Andile Phehlukwayo, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram and Lungi Ngidi were making their debut appearances at a World Cup? Or, do you take the fact that even the experienced guys like captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, David Miller et al didn’t deliver, and conclude that the guys simply choked yet again?
I’m leaning more towards the latter, I must admit. It really was an inexplicable capitulation by a team that is so much better than what we saw.