Chokers tag still sits on Proteas, says media

Updated: Mar 26, 2011, 23:35 PM IST

Johannesburg: Captain Graeme Smith might have wanted South Africa to "take it on the chin" and move ahead after the shock exit from the World Cup but the home fans are justified to remind him of the chokers tag the team has been carrying since 1992, the media said.

South Africa lost to New Zealand by 49 runs in the World Cup quarterfinal in Mirpur as their jinx of not having won a single knock-out game in five attempts since 1992 continues.

"The short - to medium - term future seems so bright for the South African team but now a solid chunk of the Proteas` support base would be burying their heads in their hands in misery or in more strident cases spewing out a stream of
unflattering mantles - some of them will begin with inevitable `c` (choker)," a write up said.

"For the moment the post-mortem period, something Proteas` CWC critics and observers are so used to grappling with since the bogey first reared its head in 1992, cannot be avoided," it said.

Rob Houwing of Sport24 website said it would be justified to call South Africa as a "bilateral series" team than a tournament winner.

"It will be little consolation, too, that a limited yet gritty, hang-in-there outfit like the Kiwis are increasingly regarded as good `tournament` material, with South Africa somehow more accomplished by a mile as a bilateral `series`team," the write up said.

"This particular Proteas squad had seemed to have just about everything at the ready in the quest to knock that theory for six; seemed to have covered so many crucial bases for the task of excelling at a World Cup on the Subcontinent. And for a few weeks, just for mundane record purposes now, they pretty much did.

"Why, even a maiden appearance in the final would have represented progress: instead the abject curse continues - this was its fifth ruinous visit - of the Proteas never having won even a sole fixture at the CWC knockout phase," it said.

It also said that the "underperformance" of Smith and senior batsman Jacques Kallis was one of the reasons for South Africa`s shock exit from the World Cup.

"For in truth, perhaps in the underperformance at the crease of senior statesman Smith (particularly) and Jacques Kallis lay at least one notable cause -- not a whole lot else went wrong -- of the Proteas` exit at the last-eight juncture.

"Smith struggled palpably for rhythm in his opening slot throughout the tournament, averaging 26 and never exceeding 45 in a single knock. He may have a fight on to keep his ODI berth as a rank-and-filer. Kallis averaged 32, but only flickered as the merciless accumulator everyone knows he can be, and his best innings was 69.

"Oh yes, and both `got in and got out` on the grim day they ran into New Zealand," it said.

The write up took potshots at the South African team for failing to play full 50 overs against big sides in the World Cup.

"On the pitches of Asia, these were the sort of men, sporting so much street-wisdom between them, who needed to `bat through` as often as possible, just making it that much easier for a team tally of 240 to become a 290, a 285 a 325 ... or even, ahem, a 172 to turn to the altogether more blissful sanctuary of 222.

"And yet it never happened, in seven appearances apiece, even if Kallis had a better excuse as he fought cobwebs from a relatively long-term injury preceding the tournament."

It talked about how the South African team, supposedly much better than the 2007 World Cup, crashed out of this edition earlier than four years ago.

"How ironic that this South African team, so much more harmonious, I believe, and so much more dynamic, daring and versatile than the class of 2007, actually tripped up one hurdle earlier than the side who turned out in the Caribbean.

That`s cricket? Phew, she`s a tough old cookie, in that case."

It, however, said that the team does not deserve "rotten-tomato welcome".

"Still, I don`t believe this Proteas group, who overwhelmingly gave it their all and then some, deserve a rotten-tomato welcome home.

"Let`s be gentlemen, and ladies. Let`s all take it on the conk, just as GC Smith and company are having to. And move on. Or at least bloody try to."

PTI