ICC Champions Trophy 2017: South Africa's abject surrender means they will continue to carry 'chokers' tag

“…Whoever invented the chokers' tag, did a great job of things…It's an unfortunate tag to have but the reality is the tag will hang around till we win an ICC Trophy,” Lance Klusener, former South African all-rounder, told in an interview with The Times of India in 2011. Six years on, the Proteas keep reminding cricket lovers around the world that they love the tag and aren’t going to let go of it anytime soon.

Nobody would know it better than Klusener. He was in the thick of things when South Africa lost World Cup cliff-hangers in 1999 and 2003 and were ejected out of the tournament. That is when the tag began to stick. In the period between then and now, not much has changed for the team when it plays big matches. That a team always bursting with talent would have no single ICC trophy to its credit tells the story. Their abject surrender to India in the knock-out game on Sunday only reaffirms that something is not alright with the big game temperament of the team.

South Africa's performance meant their choker's tag is there to stay. AP

South Africa's performance meant their choker's tag is there to stay. AP

With an emphatic victory in the 191-run chase, India proved they were the superior side. The batsmen are in superb touch and the Indian bowlers have started assuming an intimidating aura. The team’s capacity to squeeze the run flow with brilliant fielding completes its profile as a formidable side. But then South Africa were no poor match either. When a batting roll-call involves the likes of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Cock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis and bowling attack includes the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris and Imran Tahir it cannot be a weak side at all. A contest between the two was expected to be a hard fought one.

It ended as a one-sided affair with India winning with 12 overs and eight wickets to spare. No one can grudge India their victory but the capitulation of South Africa in a crucial match yet again underlines certain problems blighting the side. The problem, obviously, is not availability of talent. It’s not even a few players losing form – all batsmen have been among runs in recent times. Against Sri Lanka, Amla scored century; Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy were among runs. Against India too, the top order looked in good touch with the top three putting up a respectable performance. The bowlers did well against Sri Lanka, bowling them out for 203. The same fire was missing on Sunday though.

So what could be wrong? As the inning against India brought it out clearly, it is lack of, or rather lapse of, temperament. The big guns fired alright but nobody stuck around long enough to guide the team to a respectable score. As is the case with all big match disasters of the team there were no big batting partnerships and there was no effort to build the inning in a calculated manner. From 116 for two at a fairly decent run rate of close to five in 24 overs, it should have been a quiet take off to a total of at least 250 runs, but the team was not even able to play the whole 50 overs.

It’s a crime. It reflects poor planning in inning-building. How can a team not prepare to play the full overs? The run outs indicate the panic that replaced coo, mature thinking. That has been the recurring theme for the team in all big-match defeats. South Africa have been around for a long time as a strong side and been under pressure situations earlier too. They appear to have developed no standard operating procedure for such situations.

It’s a cliché that needs re-telling. Eleven individual players, however gifted they are, don’t make a team. In case of South Africa the team disintegrates under pressure. The talent of players comes to naught with no sense of application a team effort demands. Unless they find a way out, they are destined to carry the choker tag for a long, long time.

Updated Date: Jun 12, 2017 15:07 PM

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