The 2015 World Cup has got off to a flying start. Despite the wishes of the ICC that every match be close, we have had a series of matches dominated by the mentally stronger team.
Yesterday, we saw another one.
India had never beaten South Africa in a World Cup match. Their tour of Australia before the World Cup had been a disaster. They couldn't win one of the four Tests, and were thumped in the recent ODI Tri series by Australia and England. Again, they did not win a match. Given where England are the moment, one could be forgiven for thinking that India may as well have packed up and gone home prior to the World Cup.
South Africa also entered the tournament slightly behind the eight ball. Although they won the ODI Tri Series between Zimbabwe and Australia late last year, they couldn't back it up in Oz. A 4-1 ODI series loss to the home side in November really put them on the back foot.
They then had a warm up series against a West Indian team in freefall. An almost clean sweep here didn't really teach us much.
South Africa have everything going for them. It is an easy case to make to say that they have the best batting and bowling line up in the World Cup.
However, their first lead up game in Australia was a thumping at the hands of New Zealand. We wrote this off as just a bad day. It happens. The Kiwis are actually a decent side.
Then came a C grade performance against the Zimbabweans. Yes, South Africa got away with the win. However, it was very non convincing. The scoreline flattered the Proteas. They were outplayed for most of that match.
So, when the fixture shows a match against the current World Cup holders at the MCG in front of almost 90,000 screaming fans, was it unrealistic to expect a decent fight?
Of course not.
South Africans were born for this skirmish. They are a nation of battle weary men. They give no quarter and ask none in return. They respect their opponents but show no mercy. They are the modern day vikings of cricket. Rough, strong, united and unstoppable.
Or perhaps we were wrong.
Perhaps we should consider if South Africa is producing a new type of cricketer. A child of the T20 age. One who is more concerned about bank balances and hot girlfriends and fast cars. It's unlikely given the calibre of their more mature superstars, but what of the younger brigade in de Kock, Parnell, Miller and the rest?
The South Africa I thought I knew would allow a team to make 300 runs against them at the MCG in such an important match. Steyn and Philander would have ripped through the top order. Tahir would have kept it tight. Morkel would have snaffled a few handy wickets with surprise bounce.
The South Africa I knew wouldn't have been bowled out for less than 200 against an Indian attack finding its way. AB de Villers doesn't get run out. Hashim Amla doesn't get caught on the hook. Faf doesn't leave 100's on the table.
These Proteas have a widely documented history of failing in the knock out stages of World Cups. Currently, they are not showing any signs that 2015 will be different.
Are they struggling to handle the pressure? Are they chokers? Perhaps they are just under-prepared?
Whatever it is, these guys in green need to work it out and fix it quick.
These tournaments only happen every four years. It's not every day you can turn up with a team as talented as they are. They have one win on the board. They next face a West Indies team, who looked possessed against Pakistan, and close out the pool matches against Ireland, Pakistan and the UAE.
All of these look like achievable wins.
However, if they turn up to the semi-finals and put up a performance like they did tonight, 2015 will be just another World Cup where South Africa couldn't handle the pressure.
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2015 13:30:19 IST