South Africa

2010-10-13 18:43

Captain: Graeme Smith (nickname Biff)

ODI Ranking (November 2010): 4

Coach: Corrie van Zyl

Number of World Cup Participations: 5

World Cup Champions:
Not yet

South Africa's return to the international cricket world in 1992 started what has really become a love/hate affair with big tournaments. A partially juvenile, partially geriatric team, skippered by Kepler Wessels bore the hopes of a newly-united cricket nation to the 1992 World Cup, and who will ever forget Jonty Rhodes running Inzamam-ul-Haq out, or the lap of honour around the SCG to rapturous applause?

But the fairytale return was not to be - the rain-affected semi-final that left the Proteas needing 22 runs from 1 ball in 1992 was followed in 1996 by their elimination in the quarter-finals despite being one of the fancied teams and having qualified first in their group.

At the 1999 Cricket World Cup, South Africa played against Australia in the last Super Six match as well as the knock-out semifinal. Australia defeated the Proteas in the Super Six match and recorded a thrilling tie in the semifinal, which was enough to knock the South Africans out of the tournament since Australia had previously beaten them (in the match immediately beforehand). It is in the Super Six match that Steve Waugh is reported to have told Herschelle Gibbs "Mate, you just dropped the World Cup" when the latter dropped him en route to a match-winning century, a comment which has been denied by Waugh himself in interviews. The image of the crestfallen South Africans following the run-out of their last batsman Allan Donald while the Australians celebrated in a huddle has become an iconic sporting image.

South Africa hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup, but failed to progress beyond the group stage due to a misunderstanding of how many runs they needed to score in a rain-affected run chase. And in 2007, despite having on paper the best 11 in the competition, no-one shone and the Proteas were eliminated in the semis by eventual champions Australia.

So the question remains, can the Proteas for once and all lay this ghost to rest in 2011? They carry within their ranks the likes of AB de Villiers, recently voted the the best ODI cricketer in the world; the genius of Jacques Kallis, the world's best ever allrounder, who brings immeasurable batting, bowling and tactical experience; the natural if somewhat technically flawed aggression of skipper Smith, as well as the world's best fast bowler in Dale Steyn, a devastating paceman in Morne Morkel and the shrewd tactical brain and spin ability of Johan Botha. It reads well, but history is against the South Africans.

The key will be to avoid press hype and “talking big”, and rather to produce the same form that saw the Proteas demolish Australia 4 to 1 in their own back yard in early 2009, and the West Indies 5-0 in 2010. The South Africans carry a win percentage of around 61% in ODIs, and can on their day demolish any side in the world. Perhaps 2011 will be their year to shine.

The men in green will look to put ghosts of the past behind them in 2011. (Getty)


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