Dhaka, March 25: One would be inclined to think that South Africa is cursed with the manner in which they promise so much in World Cups and then crash out just as they begin to look like a force to reckon with. It either appears to be rain or the resurgence of a down-and-out team that do them in during a crunch match in the global tournament. At this rate, it seems the Proteas will never complete the journey between setting their sights on the trophy and drawing it to their lips for a taste of World Cup glory.
In the 1992 World Cup, the Proteas were aiming to celebrate their readmission into the global cricketing fraternity with a bang - taking the world by storm and emerging triumphant in the big event. But that awkward rain rule had other ideas when on that fateful evening at Sydney, a downpour washed away their hopes of storming into the final. The equation against England in the semi-final, was reduced from a very gettable 22 runs off 14 balls to a ridiculous 22 runs off a single delivery, which like good sports they bit the bullet and played out.
Then in the 1996 edition, they lost in the quarterfinals to the till-then least threatening team in their opposing group - the West Indies. A blistering 111 from 94 balls by Brian Lara on the day set up the win with a formidable total of 264. Then the Windies attack chipped away at the Proteas line-up, led by off-break Roger Harper who took 4/47 and slow-left armer Jimmy Adams with 3/53, to restrict them to 19 runs short of the Windies' total.
The tragedy in 1999 is all too well documented. Facing Australia in the semi-final, South Africa were chasing 213 to win with 9 runs required off the final over when Lance Klusener blasted two fours off Damien Fleming before running Allan Donald out in the penultimate ball of the match. The game was thus tied and by virtue of Australia's league stages' win over South Africa earlier in the tournament, the former edged out the latter.
In the 2003 World Cup, Rain returned to play serious dampener to South Africa's hopes of making the semi-final. Even playing in their own backyard, the Proteas couldn't notch up the points after (three wins,) two losses and a rain-induced tie with Sri Lanka effectively put to bed their World Cup dream.
Then in 2007, the Proteas were comprehensively beaten by a surging, dominating Australian side. Aussie pace sensation Glenn McGrath took 3/18 to help bowl out South Africa for a paltry 149 in 43.5 overs, a total which the World Champions easily chased down with the loss of just two wickets and in 31.3 overs.
And finally, as though history hasn't repeated itself enough to the utter disappointment of South African fans, their team has shockingly crashed out yet again, from the big tournament. In a scenario painfully reminiscent of 1996, a team who landed up fourth in their group was able to overpower the table-topping Proteas. This time, it is New Zealand which is the dog who has had its day.
The team from the Rainbow Nation will be hoping that there will be a time and place somewhere over the Rainbow when they can truly take on the title of World Champions. For now though it is all dark clouds and gloom and not even a silver lining in sight...