Someone may sue me for using this word as a title, but I will take the risk. Reason is beyond the obvious. WC92 was the first world cup when SA played. That was the last world cup when they were not hot favorites. But till date, their performance in WC92 remains their best – a semi final exit when everyone believed that they should have won. Since then, it’s just have been the question of when they will do for which they are best known as – choke. It’s never been a question of “If they will choke.” More they do it, more difficult it becomes for “if” to replace “when.” Here is my take on their team.
Graeme Smith – After the calculation mistake of 2003, when one of the South African giant told Harsha Bhogle that 23 year old Smith is the solution for SA’s problems, Bhogle said he was aghast. But Smith did turn out to be that solution. There is a saying that every SA cricketer has two inevitable events in his life – he will surely die and he will surely choke at a WC. Smith couldn’t avoid the later in WC07 and he will have to be a superhuman to avoid the former. But he is one of the best SA has ever produced in terms of batting and captaincy. He did turn it around for SA after the slump created by Cronje’s admissions. If Cronje was a decent batsman, Smith is much better. If Cronje turned the dressing room into a hut of a saints, Smith’s team mates boast of model girlfriends. If Cronje turned out to be a match fixer , Smith has been fixing cricketing problems. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be Cronje part 2. His opponents will be afraid of him unless they have a left arm pacer in the playing XI who has his name starting from the letter Z. If opponents have such a player, Smith will fear them.
Hashim Amla - Amla is SA’s Rahul Dravid of 2001-2005. When he scored at an average of 36 and strike rate of 76 in first 6 matches of his ODI career, it was easy to term him as a test specialist which he actually was. He came back strongly to score over 2,000 runs in next 36 matches at an average of 62 and strike rate of 94. He made his test debut against India and failed which helped in avoiding the Indian curse. Only if Indians had allowed him to score heavily in that test, they might have avoided the Amla ka Hamla in the recent series. He must be thankful to God that his 22nd ODI was his first against India hence he once again avoided the Indian curse. Amla will be the one to watch out for in this world cup. India may suffer the most for letting him off the Indian curse.
Johan Botha – When someone told me that Botha is seen as SA’s future captain, I looked for reasons. Only reason I could find out was that Botha is a year and 90 days younger to Smith. Botha is an excellent all rounder only if he can swap his bowling average of 40 with batting average of 18. Otherwise a batsman with batting average of 18 is as bad as a bowler with bowling average of 40. His economy rate of 4.65 is impressive but so was Gevin Larson’s. NZ never let him lead the side. What a pity. I am told that his strength is bowling Yorkers. But that didn’t impress Yusuf Pathan. That will surely not impress many like him especially amongst Asian batsmen.
AB de Villiers – AB says he wants to be world’s best batsman. But so does Rohit Sharma although may be just to himself. But there is a big difference. AB’s record clearly suggests that he tries hard to become what he wants. He could be extremely dangerous and has a liking for Indian subcontinent. He is not a bad wicketkeeper at all.
Faf du Plessis – More than anyone else, he will be a big headache for commentators’ especially Hindi commentators. I am dying to see his name in Hindi newspapers. Just imagine what you may see there.
Imran Tahir – Tahir seems like SA’s secret weapon imported from Pakistan. He is yet to make his debut though. More than me, Tahir must be hoping that he doesn’t turn out to be SA’s Sunil Valson . Just in case you are Imran Tahir and manage to stumble upon this page, please do click the link.
Colin Ingram – 11 matches, 378 runs with an average of 41 and strike rate of 87 does look impressive. Just take out two of his 100s and he has scored 104 in 9 matches at an average of 17 and strike rate of 80. Agreed that he made a 100 on debut but that was against Zimbabwe. His second 100 came against Pakistan but you never know when it comes to Pakistan. I hope you know what I mean here. Given the fact that he has never played in Indian sub continent, he might struggle here. But India may come for his rescue.
J Kallis – He is the best ever after Garry Sobers although some may put him ahead of Sobers. When I saw Kallis walking back to pavilion every time after he got out in WC96, I wondered why commentators ranked him so high. He scored 63 runs in 5 matches and couldn’t take a single wicket in WC96. I think Kallis read my thoughts and hurt us real bad later– his best batting average is against India (excluding minnows). His record in the sub continent is better than his career record – in both batting and bowling. I hope that WC11 will be same as WC96 but it may well be a mirror image.
Morne Morkell – God made 10 guys like me and cut them in height. Then he combined that height and added it to Morkel’s. Morkel acted like a truly thankless person and, in the recent series, made Indians leap, hop, jump, and duck. Indians shouted “F**k.” Morkel came back to bowl and his bouncers said “F**k You!!” The bouncers did that too. But I am afraid this will be the payback time for Indian batsmen. Other may help them too. Morkel may not get the bounce he got in SA. At best his bouncers will reach Raina’s waist and Raina is good against fast bowling if it bounces below his waist or is at a speed less than 125kph. Morkel will surely qualify for one condition. He will also find lots of Rainas in this world cup.
Wayne Parnell – He is too young to be said anything about him. But he does belong to old generation of SA cricketers who dropped the steering wheel and closed their eyes whenever they saw a train headed towards their car. In last one year, it’s twice that India has beaten SA with a margin of 1 run. On both occasions, Parnell was the last man out.
Robin Petersen – His cricinfo profile page says about him “Spin bowlers of genuine potential are a rarity in South Africa, much less the jewels that can hold a bat as well as field with attacking intent. Peterson, a left-arm finger spinner from Eastern Province, fills all three vacancies more than competently” Well if someone batting average of 13 and bowling average of 50 (that too after 40 matche) can be talked about in such words, Petersen must belong to a rare breed. In subcontinent, he has played 9 matches, scored 49 runs, and taken 4 wickets. I don’t know why they are bringing him here. May be because either SA wants to showcase their rare talent to the world cricket or they want the guy writing cricinfo profile page to get fired.
Dale Steyn – He is the best pacer in the world. May be a liquor baron from India would disagree but he is the best.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe – He will another tongue twister for Hindi commentators. He will most likely be sharing Morkel’s disappointment – learning that it’s not the always shoulder that make you look unplayable, it’s also the track sometimes. When you are playing in Indian subcontinent, it’s always the track.
Morne Van Wyk – He is SA’s backup wicketkeeper. South Africans believe that he is quite a good batsman although an Indian Film Star may tend to disagree.
JP Duminy – When Duminy guided SA to their historic win with a well made half century, SA must have thought that they have discovered their solution to the age old problem of choking. He proved them wrong again and again by getting out at a crucial stage and SA lost the matches which they could have or should have won. If you disagree, go ask the residents of Antilia.
While SA will go hard at their opponents in the group stage, I am sure that their luck will be harder to them in the knock-out stage. They will choke again.