WC 2003 - Ghost of host returns to haunt, proves many wrong

Published: Saturday, February 22, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: South Africa's dramatic exit from the World Cup only confirmed one of the event's great truths - the host nation shall not win cricket's showpiece.A calculation error was the final nail in a disastrous campaign for Shaun Pollock's men who were eliminated after the first round when their rain-hit match against Sri Lanka ended in a tie under the Kingsmead lights on Monday night.Play was halted when South Africa was on 229 for six after 45 overs, chasing a Sri Lankan total of 268 for nine. According to the Duckworth-Lewis method, the scores were level.Pollock admitted the batsmen at the crease, Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener, were told they needed to get 229 instead of 230 which would have lifted South Africa to the top of Group B instead of being knocked out.Pollock also conceded his team had failed to play to its full potential but said it had been dogged by bad luck in the key games against the West Indies, which it lost by three runs, and New Zealand, which was also decided on the Duckworth-Lewis method."It's very disappointing. Probably we were not as dominating as we have been in the past," Pollock said. The pressure of playing before their own fans had taken its toll on the host team in the seven previous editions of the World Cup and it was no different this time.When England hosted the first three World Cups, its best finish was the runners-up spot in 1979 when it lost to the West Indies in the final. When Asian rivals India and Pakistan co-hosted the next tournament in 1987, they bowed out in the semi-finals.Australia won the title in India that year and Pakistan followed suit in 1992 when the World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand. Sri Lanka beat the world when the tournament returned to the Indian sub-continent in 1996, but strictly speaking Arjuna Ranatunga's men played the final against Australia in Lahore, Pakistan, not at home in Colombo.England, which hosted the last World Cup in 1999, was knocked out in the preliminary round itself - even before the tournament's official song had been released."The pressure of being the host is enormous and it always tends to be a big problem throughout the event," said Imran Khan, Pakistan's World Cup winning captain in 1992.Former South African captain Kepler Wessels, who said before the tournament began that the ghost of the host would not haunt Pollock's men, was also proved wrong."Under that kind of pressure you can get tentative, but South Africa has the best team combination in the tournament," Wessels had said. The Proteas had the example of their rugby team to encourage them - Francois Pienaar's men won the rugby World Cup which South Africa hosted. India's captain Saurav Ganguly, however, gave little importance to history."History does not matter when you go out there," he said. "It all boils down to how well you play on that particular day." South Africa did not play well. Carl Hooper's West Indies already out of contention here, beware! The next World Cup will be held in the Caribbean in 2007. Copyright AFP 2001

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