With the arrival of every cricket World Cup, one question invariably comes up for discussion: will South Africa be able to get over their jinx in ICC mega events. To be fair to the Proteas, they did win the inaugural ICC Knockout Championship (forerunner to the Champions Trophy) in 1998 and their failure to win the World Cup hasn't always been on account of 'choking.'
In 1992, it was a ridiculous re-calibration of the target that undid them while in 1996, they lost fair and square to West Indies. The choking started in 1999 World Cup when Allan Donald's poor running cost them a place in the Final and probably the cup. In the next World Cup, a miscommunication about the target they needed to achieve when play stopped led to their premature exit.
In 2007, the Proteas were up against an all-time great Australian side in the semi-final and lost decisively. 2011 was indeed a choke as a strong South African team, arguably the best in that tournament, collapsed incomprehensibly against New Zealand in the quarter-final. They choked again in 2015 by giving away a match which was in their control most of the time.
So, what can we expect this time? In 2019, is this South African team going to put an end to the travails they have been through in ICC tournaments over two decades? While no one can say for sure, there are reasons to believe that this time might be as good as any for them to put the chokers tag to bed. Here are the 5 reasons we can expect the Proteas to break their barren run in big tournaments.
The fact that South Africa are going into a World Cup with a strong team is not new. Being a very consistent side, the Proteas always feature among the top teams in a World Cup. But it's the crunch moments where their quality seems to escape them. However, a side needs to have good players in order to win a major event and SA have no dearth of them this time also. A bowling attack consisting of Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada, a batting line-up possessing Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and David Miller shows that even in this World Cup, they won't be without capable players. That makes them among the favourites.
Experience of winning a knockout
While the 2015 World Cup campaign ended in tears for South Africa, it did achieve one landmark which had been hitherto eluding them. By defeating Sri Lanka in the quarter-final, the South Africans recorded their first ever victory in a World Cup knockout match. Now that didn't come to mean much as they blew their opportunity to reach the Finals. But having gone through that experience, they would be much more relaxed and confident of winning the semi-finals, if they get there, this time. And then the Final could witness anything.
Presence of young players with no baggage
One of the problems the Proteas faced over the years in ICC tournaments was the mental baggage they carried from their previous failed attempts to lift the trophy. But this time around, they will have bowlers such as Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi who will approach the tournament with untainted minds. On top of that, the presence of an aggressive batsman like Quinton de Kock at the top of the order, with his carefree style, could further give South Africa that relaxing feel they need.
Comparative lack of expectation
Unlike the two previous World Cups, this edition has a clear favourite – England. The hosts look like the team to beat in this event and due to their run-making feats as well as incredible success at home. On top of that, Indian players like Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah would draw great attention as well. So, the South Africans won't have too much glare on them. This lack of expectations and hopes could well allow du Plessis-led side to play without any performance pressure.
Presence of veterans
Both Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla are, in all probability, playing their last World Cup and they would like to get their hands on the one trophy that has eluded them. Hashim Amla's selection in the World Cup squad was itself under question but he now claims to be fully prepared, mentally and physically. Dale Steyn's struggles with injuries seem to have halted, hence he too would be willing to go full steam ahead. If both these men play up to their potential, South Africa may finally claim the trophy.