Colin Bryden

Time to ban the 'C' word

2011-03-07 14:04
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden

South Africa lose a World Cup match – and the “choker” word comes out. So predictable, so inane.
There is no precise definition of choking in a sporting context but the way I see it is when a team or a player gets to the verge of victory then lets the opportunity slip by freezing at a crucial moment – a golfer missing a three foot putt for a tournament win, a tennis player not being able to close out a match because his service inexplicably fails him.
In cricket, the popular mantra is to apply pressure until a batsman makes a mistake. For the winning team, successful application of this tactic is acclaimed but it doesn’t necessarily mean the losers “choked”, although a case could be made for this definition if five or six wickets fall when only a handful of runs are needed or a bowler bowls wides and long-hops when a tight over is needed at the “death”.
A trawl through South Africa’s World Cup history reveals plenty of poor decisions – leaving out both Allan Donald and Fanie de Villiers for the quarterfinal in 1996, failing to attack Australia’s part-time bowlers in the tied semifinal in 1999, not having a clear grasp of the Duckworth-Lewis Method in 2003, making the wrong choices after winning the toss in two matches against Australia in 2007.
The match against England in Chennai was played on a dog of a pitch. Chasing 172 was never going to be easy. Yes, questions can be asked about the way some of the batsmen went about their task, particularly those who kept trying to cut on a pitch with turn and unpredictable bounce.
It could even be argued that Graeme Smith, after the tactical masterstroke of opening the bowling with Robin Peterson, backed off from going for the kill after Peterson reduced England to 15 for three, choosing instead to have two quicker bowlers operating when Trott and Bopara were building what proved a match-winning partnership. The non-selection of Johan Botha could also be debated.
To label the defeat as a “choke” is ridiculous. It was hardly a must-win game because South Africa are well on course for a place in the knock-out phase.
Take a look at the log tables. After South Africa’s defeat, Pakistan are the only one out of 14 teams with full points. Does that mean all the rest are “chokers”? It’s time for some perspective – and perhaps to consign the “C” word to the rubbish bin.

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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