It’s an­other horror as demons pos­sess hap­less Proteas

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - LUN­GANI ZAMA

A HORROR movie that the en­dur­ing Proteas’ fan has seen far too of­ten, played out once again yes­ter­day as South Africa again crashed out of a tour­na­ment with a whim­per.

This time, there was no late night heart­break, like Auck­land 2015, nor the drama of Edg­bas­ton 1999. This time, the end was swift and sorry, a car-crash of a scene, thanks to a ca­pit­u­la­tion that started with SA’s tal­is­man fall­ing short, and laid bare all of South Africa’s en­dur­ing in­abil­ity to han­dle two sim­ple words in a cricket match: Must. Win.

“I can’t ex­plain ex­actly what hap­pens, it was just a very poor bat­ting per­for­mance. We just un­rav­elled as a side out there,” AB de Vil­liers lamented.

He wore the look of a man bereft of an­swers.

As it turned out, SA’s brains got so scram­bled at The Oval, that they even for­got the first two words of the cricket vo­cab­u­lary. ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ went miss­ing in ac­tion, and three deeply em­bar­rass­ing run-outs served as can­non-fod­der for an au­di­ence that had come spoil­ing for a con­test to re­mem­ber. One mo­ment de­fined the match.

“I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for AB’s run-out. That’s my fault,” Faf du Plessis puffed. “Ob­vi­ously, he is a big player for us and he was look­ing good and it was a crunch time in the game.”

That much was true. Once De Vil­liers, look­ing as­sured and hun­gry for that de­fin­i­tive knock in a key clash, de­parted, things im­me­di­ately swung back to In­dia.

“I sup­pose, after that mo­ment, (David Miller) came in and we dis­cussed that it is ex­tremely loud out there and dif­fi­cult to hear each other so the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two of us was just for the next five overs, just play it as risk free as pos­si­ble.”

After those run outs, the ex­pected heavy­weight bout turned out to be a David ver­sus Go­liath af­fair. Sadly, this David for­got his stones back at the team ho­tel, and was sim­ply bul­lied into sub­mis­sion by an In­dian Go­liath.

South Africa turned into meek lambs to the slaugh­ter, com­mit­ting cricket sui­cide and pro­vid­ing fresh ev­i­dence of their deeply em­bed­ded men­tal frailty. It looks ter­mi­nal now, but De Vil­liers re­fuses to give up the ghost.

Asked if he wanted to carry on as leader of th­ese men, his an­swer was em­phatic. “Ab­so­lutely!”

In that there was cer­tainty, at least.

“Be­cause I’m a good cap­tain, and I can take this team for­ward,” he ex­plained.

Plat­i­tudes of ‘you’re too good to never win one’ – in­ter­na­tional lingo for a Saf­fer’s ‘ag, shame’ – have be­come stale, and they may now be re­placed by the ques­tion that sits heav­ily in ev­ery South African dress­ing-room at such events: Will you ever win one?

“I still be­lieve I can win a World Cup. That’s what I be­lieve ... I know it’s hard to be­lieve that now, but that is what I be­lieve,” De Vil­liers main­tained.

There is no cure, no magic pill to be guz­zled in or­der to wipe away the fear. That fear is the big­gest hur­dle, that crip­pling fear of fail­ing once more, of adding yet more fuel to the Protea fire of doom come crunch time. For­get the mar­gin of vic­tory – eight wick­ets, the gi­ant score­board said – be­cause it was a can­ter as soon as the run outs oc­curred. It was tour­na­ment déjà vu of the worst kind.

Come tour­na­ment time, South Africa are un­recog­nis­able, their in­di­vid­ual bril­liance dimmed by a col­lec­tive dread that clouds all judg­ment. The nor­mally ebul­lient Quin­ton de Kock made the meek­est half-cen­tury of his ca­reer, seem­ingly play­ing un­der in­struc­tion to not lose early wick­ets – and thus hand In­dia the ini­tia­tive.

By the time South Africa tried to lift it, In­dia were well into their work, div­ing for ev­ery­thing, snap­ping up half-chances, and se­cur­ing dom­i­nance. There were no tears at the end, be­cause the farce of a per­for­mance left ev­ery man and his dog cold. Where there was sym­pa­thy be­fore, now there is gen­uine pity at how poor this ex­cel­lent, but frag­ile team be­comes at the mere sug­ges­tion of pres­sure.

They will go again, of course, after a fresh bout of con­tem­pla­tion.

“I’m not think­ing about the next one now, we just need to get through this hurt now,” De Vil­liers sighed. What must change?

“I don’t know. We’ve tried a few things, camps and psy­chol­o­gists. In my mind that wasn’t the prob­lem. It wasn’t a men­tal thing, we were just poor on the day,” he main­tained.

He doesn’t know. Who re­ally does any­more?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.