WC 2003 - South African media, fans rue team~~s bad luck in WC

Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2003, 22:39 [IST]
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Durban: With "sporting gods" conspiring to make sure South Africans were shown the door in the World Cup in the most bizarre of circumstances, the media offered its sympathies to the jinxed team and joined the nation inmourning the early ouster.There was no anger directed at anyone for the hosts' exit in the league round itself but a compassionate treatment of the stories on the team's do-or-die Pool B match against Sri Lanka on Monday.South Africa was forced to split points with Sri Lanka after rains intervened but it did not have enough to make it to the Super Sixes. "Betrayed by the sporting gods - yet again," 'The Independent's' headline read even as all reports invariably highlighted the painful memories of the tied result against Australia in the 1999 edition and a loss to England in a rain-affected semi-final in the 1992 World Cup.While the photograph of the 1992 match showing the target on the scoreboard - 22 runs off one ball - remains the most poignant image of that World Cup, this time the photograph of South African skipper Shaun Pollock sitting with his head in his hands after it became clear that his team was one run short will probably be remembered for a long time.The picture of a distraught Pollock perhaps best reflected the mood of the nation. "Heartbreaking: World Cup jinx strikes again", lamented 'The Star' on its front page. "Just as a tied match against Australia cruelly knocked South Africa out of the 1999 Cricket World Cup, so a tied match against Sri Lanka sent them crashing out of the 2003 tournament on home soil at the first hurdle," 'The Star' wrote. "South Africa's World Cup dream ends in tears," read a headline in 'The Independent', which went on to say, "South Africa was left cursing the cricketing Gods for the third time in the last four cricket World Cups on Monday."For the second tournament in-a-row, it found itself eliminated having tied its match. For the second time since 1992, it fell victim to rain." Unable to bear the team's unceremonious exit, some fans reacted irrationally. "How can we lose in our own country? As host nation, we should be in the finals," one caller to a radio talk show said.A local radio host even mouthed expletives against the Sri Lankans, but listeners telephoned the station to complain about his foul language. Gerald Majola, president of the South African cricket Board, was disheartened by his team's bad luck but stressed that it was not the end of the world for them. "This is the second time we have been robbed by rain of getting into the finals. We feel for our players and want to inform them that we are with them all the way," he said. The Johannesburg-based Star newspaper which carried three front page photographs of distraught captain Shaun Pollock with the captions 'shock', 'horror' and despair'.'Polly devastated by another tied exit,' proclaimed the tabloid Citizen, its inside pages telling of how the 'World Cup love-hate relationship continues'. Had South Africa scored one more run in Durban they would have won under the Duckworth-Lewis system for deciding rain-affected matches. Not that the sports-mad South African public, some of whom flooded SAFM radio with complaints, were inclined to be so understanding."We've never had firepower from beginning. We need to start planning for the next World Cup," said one caller. "We need to start looking for a pool of players, particularly good spinners and people who can bowl medium pace," said Sarif from Cape Town. Another said the team had only themselves to blame. "As a patriotic South African I'm disappointed but let's now be man enough and be realistic to say the team did not play well. "You could not put our team under such pressure to go into the last match where it's win at all costs. We haven't played well." But his words failed to pacify one caller from Port Elizabeth, who slammed chairman of selectors Omar Henry and called for his replacement by former captain Kepler Wessels."We need a guy like Kepler to get in there and make the selection and not pussyfoot around with the players. It's ridiculous. Omar Henry, the quicker you resign the better."And Hein from Vanderbijl Park said the side had to learn from the example of reigning champions Australia. "Australians are hard core. They just want to go in there and kill everything in front of them."Professor Tim Noakes of the Sports Science Institute in Cape Town and the South African team doctor at the 1996 World Cup said the side lacked a killer instinct. "South Africans are just too nice. That's our problem. Shaun said 'how could you predict this'. That's a fatalistic approach. The outcome is always in someone else's hands."Agencies

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