History repeats itself

‘Choking’ would have been the first word to come to everybody’s mind after yet another dismal display by South Africa in a knockout situation of an important world event.

However, to have lived up to the choker tag, which the South Africans are famous for, would have meant that they actually had a definite target, and contingency measures like a Plan B or even a Plan C to be implemented in case Plan A — in this case overhauling India’s not so formidable target of 153 — went awry.

Unfortunately, South Africa did not have any. It entered the arena without a clue as to what needed to be done.

Consider this: all that South Africa had to do was score 126 and everything would have been hunky-dory for the host, for the equations were such that even a loss at that stage would have ensured its progress to the semifinals.

Arithmetic doesn’t seem to be South Africa’s strong point. It was at the same venue in the 2003 World Cup that South Africa was eliminated by Sri Lanka under the Duckworth-Lewis method by an agonising one run. On that occasion Mark Boucher had played a dot ball, even refusing a single, just before play was called off due to rain. If he had run that single, South Africa would have progressed. One of the reasons for this mess-up was a breakdown in communication between the dressing room and the men at the crease.

This time again, it was Boucher in the thick of things. The veteran of many scraps had strung together a 69-run partnership with Albie Morkel to salvage the situation for South Africa after it had been 31 for five.

South Africa should have taken stock of the situation then. Messages should have been passed to the men in the middle from the dugout that they should aim for at least 126 (to qualify for the semifinals) if not 154 (to win the match).

Its past experiences in the World Cup — the tie with Australia in 1999 which saw the Proteas ejected out of the tournament and the loss in 2003 — have failed to make South Africa wise. Boucher, followed by the rest, fell in quick succession as South Africa finished 10 runs short of its qualification target against India.

Unprofessional? Yes. Chokers? No. That’s what one can say of the South Africans after their defeat in the crucial Super8 match against India.

S. V. Sriram