WC 2003 - Columns - South Africans need to handle pressure to avoid choking

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2003, 0:18 [IST]
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Bangalore: We are not chokers, insisted the South African coach Simons after his team lost to West Indies in the World Cup opener on February 9.

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But their records indicate a different story. Especially when they chase. This is not the first time that the South African team has fallen short of its target when it was cruising towards it smoothly initially.The World Cup 1999 semi-final against Australia was one such instance where all that the South Africans needed was one run of the last over. But they choked. Yes, they did choke and left all the fans stunned.

They crumbled to the pressure. Another such instance was in the recent past against India in a crucial game to decide the semi-finalist of the ICC Champions Trophy at Sri Lanka in September 2002. That one was really an absolute choker. One could not really understand how they could manage to lose when they were cruising towards a comfortable victory target.

South Africa was coasting along on 192 for one in reply to India's 261 for nine. But Herschelle Gibbs, who top-scored with 116, retired hurt and Yuvraj Singh took a stunning catch to dismiss Jonty Rhodes off Harbhajan Singh, turning the course of the match. After that South Africa never got back into the match again and lost absolutely whimsically.And now the match against the West Indies when the victory was in reach and they messed it up.

In fact for a long time after their come back from the ban, they had this final jinx hovering on their heads. Which was broken after a long, long time when the South Africans beat India. But, the situation was back to square one soon. The South African team has immensely talented world-class players in its ranks, yet it ends up as a choker.

All it lacks is the will to cope up with the pressure and to perform under it.Whenever it comes to delivering goods under pressure the South Africans have choked. They have always crumbled under pressure. And probably they will keep choking until they learn to deal with pressure in the final overs. They need to overcome the pressure and finish the matches with victories. As an adherent of the South African side, I really hope they come out with a solution to their problem of choking and move towards greater heights, which they have been short of for a long time now. Only then can they do some justice to their talent.

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