The Proteas are ready for the Cricket World Cup opener against Sri Lanka and are desperate to escape the tag of big-time chokers.
According to EWN, since South Africa returned from the apartheid-era wilderness, their relationship with the tournament has been bittersweet at best and cursed at worst.
In 1992, they received a rain-revised and mathematically impossible target of 22 runs off one ball to defeat England in the semifinal.
Eleven years later, they misread the rain rules in a tied match with Sri Lanka and exited their tournament.
At the 1999 event, they conjured defeat from a certain victory in a farcical finish in their semifinal with Australia.
“I genuinely believe that we’re not chokers,” key batsman David Miller told ESPNcricinfo this week.
“How that tag affects people is an individual thing, but it’s never, ever bothered me.”
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He added: “Obviously there’s been history and there’s been games that we’ve not played well in that have let us down. But I would never say the ‘chokers’ tag applies to us, although that’s what everyone says.”
Fortunately for South Africa, they should have arrived in India free of self-destruction as seven members of the 15-man squad have never played in a World Cup.
That includes skipper Temba Bavuma, who prefers to focus on the players’ experience in his squad with match-tough backgrounds in the Indian Premier League.
Quinton de Kock, who will retire from international cricket after the tournament, for example, has thrived in India and, in 2022, hit the third-highest-ever score in IPL history of 140 not out.
“A lot of the teams have guys who played in India, have done well in India,” said Bavuma.
“I think all we could do is for the guys who have that experience and knowledge, they can share it among the team or use it in terms of our strategies and plans.”
South Africa mounted a comeback to defeat Australia 3-2 in a five-match series at home in September from 2-0.
They lost to New Zealand in a World Cup warm-up at Thiruvananthapuram, but De Kock starred with an unbeaten 84. At the same time, fast bowlers Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen took three wickets.
Sri Lanka, the 1996 World Cup winners, had to come through qualifying to reach the tournament.
In 2023, they put together a 13-match winning streak. Still, they suffered two losses to India in the Asia Cup last month, including in the final.
After being bowled out for just 50, they were thrashed by 10 wickets, with India storming to the target in the sixth over.
“Everyone wants to make a statement, we are here to perform well in this tournament,” insisted captain Danuka Shanaka, whose team hasn’t faced South Africa since 2021.
Sri Lanka lost both their World Cup warm-ups to Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
However, batsman Kusal Mendis smashed 158 against Afghanistan in an encouraging sign.
Picture: X / ProteasMenCSA
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