South Africa has always had some of the most outrageous talent in cricket for a while and going into this World Cup, the team has the arsenal. But are these all-empty blanks? They seem to be missing that killer instinct. That one force which makes them look dangerous enough to go all the way.
Yes, their skipper is leading by example and how. AB de Villiers finds a novel way to score runs every minute he is on the crease; Hashim Amla lends solidity on top, David Miller that power post De Villiers. Dale Steyn’s bowling was always scary and now his looks too complement his fiery talent.
They completely steamrolled West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland batting first, posting 400 plus scores twice in their three outings. Bowlers honestly had plenty to play with. But the moment they were chasing just over 300, the same team bundled out for less than 200 runs. There is a hint here.
It indeed is the same old story. They crumbled under pressure. Their bowlers couldn’t restrict a team that struggled on that very soil a month ago. If not for India’s late crumble; MS Dhoni’s men would have posted more than 350 against an attack that has best leg spinner in the World Cup, top fast bowler or to say a top fast bowling pair.
In their chase, Amla’s monk like composure was missing; Quinton De Kock was a shadow of the batsman who scored three consecutive centuries against India previously. Faf Du Plessis and skipper De Villiers had put on a mask of steely nerves.
What would hurt them the most is the fact that one of the weakest bowling attacks in the World Cup shot them down easily. Probably India fielded much better than the team that has always set fielding benchmarks effecting crucial run outs of De Villiers and Miller.
Therefore, the hint here was when put under pressure; this team missed a trick or two. Besides India, all their other oppositions were not the top ODI outfits in the world. This theory can be applied to other teams including India. But what matters is how well you fare against top sides.
Or probably too many cooks are spoiling the broth. Their support staff includes Mike Hussey, Allan Donald, Charl Langeveldt, Gary Kirsten, Adrian Birrell, Claude Henderson and head coach Russell Domingo. If there is a specialist for every skill set, what does the head coach do? This probably shows the think tank’s lack of confidence in their individuals’ skills.
In their match against India, ABD-led side exposed their perennial susceptibilities of inability to deal with pressure. The loss may not mean much in the larger context, as in they will eventually qualify for quarterfinals, but there they won't have a second chance, and they definitely won't have a second rung team to play against.
Going by their current standing in Pool B, i.e. second place, they would meet either Sri Lanka or co-hosts Australia who would be the third placed side in Pool A. And both the sides would by now have known their prospective opponents’ weakness under pressure. South Africa’s hopes are lying on the shoulders of their skipper De Villiers. This South Africa outfit looks more like the 90s Indian team which would crumble at the fall of Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket.
To add some numbers here, since 2013, they have batted second 22 times and lost 13 times. Of these 13 losses, six times they conceded 300+ scores, twice lost chasing less than 220, four times chasing a score between 250 and 290. Says a lot about crumbling under pressure? Let’s be fair here saying they also chased 328 against Australia in that period, that too in some style.
And when they have batted first in that same period, i.e. since 2013, they have won 24 of the 35 matches. Mind you they have posted 13 scores in excess of 300 and of them three being 400+. If these numbers don’t speak volumes of their inability to sustain pressure, especially while chasing then what else will prove the theory?
Sure we can find such numbers about other teams too, but this Proteas unit isn’t any different from their previous ones at World Cups, brimming with talent, come in as one of the dark horses and then eventually take home the ‘C’ tag. The script may not be different this time, so it won’t be wrong to say rainbow nation has some colours missing.