THE fact that we were thrashed by India on Sunday by a record World Cup score is not the real issue, it was not a game we had to win anyway. Records are only statistics and statistics can be overturned very easily.
But how do you turn over the mental attitude of a whole cricket team in the limited time available?
Of the 11 Protea batsmen who walked to the middle on Sunday, only two, Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell, did not give their wickets away, and six of the dismissals were very simple catches. This game was played on the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where nearly all runs come from ground strokes, because it is one of the biggest fields in world cricket.
You simply do not hit the ball in the air, even in an ODI. Did the Proteas not watch the Indians bat?
Scoring 149 runs from 44 balls in the recent ODI against a depleted, dejected West Indian attack, with the series already decided, must be viewed honestly, in the correct context. This especially since A B de Villiers came to the crease with a massive total already on the board. The situation on Sunday was crying out for leadership in a pressure-cooker environment, not just from the captain, but from anyone, and sadly, all failed.
Perhaps our greatest loss on Sunday was not the match, but the perfect opportunity to display our mettle under pressure in front of 90 000 hostile spectators and to get in some batting practice in the best of conditions. After all this was the ground where the final is to be played on March 29.
We wasted this golden opportunity, committing the cardinal sin of ODI cricket: batting for only 40 of the 50 allocated overs.
Could we have expected any better seeing that two of the bowling coaches, one batting coach and the convener of the selectors were all products of our 20-year-old “choker” school? The whole malignant tumour should have been removed ages ago to halt further infection.
Does this mean that we are still chokers? Of course it does, probably more now than ever before.
Is there anyone out there who can remedy it? Yes, the name Johan Botha comes to mind.
-Bob McChlery, Kenton-on-Sea