The Leading Edge

Sorry Faf and the boys, you won't win the World Cup- or will you?

The Proteas will head to the World Cup with our best wishes, but not a lot of our hope

20 January 2019 - 00:13 By Telford Vice


If you're old enough to do the big things in life - realise no politician deserves your vote, know capitalism is evil, stop taking religion seriously, drive drunk - you haven't lived through a time when SA have not been expected to win the World Cup.
Until now.
Sorry, Faf, but when you and the okes go off to England in a couple of months you will take Mzansi's best wishes with you - but not a lot of our hope.
Even winning all 10 of the one-day internationals you will play against Pakistan and Sri Lanka won't change that. At least, not for longer than the two weeks in 1995 it took white South Africans to go back to shouting at their maids after Nelson Mandela's temporarily united nation was crowned champions of planet rugby.
The last time SA's cricketers went to a World Cup knowing the country didn't have confidence in them came a year later.
Never mind that Mandela was still president, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki were his deputies. Nelson and Winnie divorced that year. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission started its formal hearings.
Yes, it really was that long ago.
Long enough ago that SA had been to only one World Cup before that - in 1992 when Peter Kirsten batted them all the way to a Sydney semifinal against England, who ended the fairy tale unhappily with the help of rain rules so out of touch they might have been chiselled onto stone tablets.
Four years later the reality of SA's fragility in the subcontinent had set in, and was confirmed when they ran into the West Indies on a good day in their quarterfinal in Karachi.
Allan Donald was left out. Donald, the finest fast bowler of the age, dropped. Brian Lara smacked 22 of his 111 off a single Pat Symcox over.
Steven Palframan has spent too much of the ensuing 23 years watching replays of the chance offered by Shivnarine Chanderpaul - and that dipped under his left glove - wondering whether he should have been a half-step closer to the stumps.
SA were going all the way in 1999. Of course they were. Until Lance Klusener and Donald found themselves all padded up with no place to go except the same end of the pitch in the semifinal against Australia at Edgbaston.
They would win it at home in 2003. Then they discovered they couldn't read a Duckworth/Lewis sheet and were bundled out in the first round.
SA's year would be 2007. Except it was Australia's.
Surely 2011 would be different. It was: SA couldn't chase a middling 222 on a flat Dhaka pitch to beat New Zealand in their quarterfinal, and were bowled out for a piddling 172.
They didn't choke in 2015. Instead, at the damn fool instigation of Cricket bloody SA's board, Vernon Philander and his dodgy hamstring were press-ganged into the XI for the semi against New Zealand in Auckland. Why not Farhaan Behardien or Aaron Phangiso as the fourth black player? Anyway. Dale Steyn to Grant Elliott, five to win, two balls left . History.
And here we are, another World Cup looming like a mugger in a dark alley. We're too jaded to care anymore: take our money, our watches, our cellphones, whatever else. Then leave us the hell alone. We don't like cricket. We used to love it. Our dreadlock holiday has been shortened, simply, sadly, to dread.
SA - you read it here first - will not win the 2019 World Cup. You could probably agree with that assertion and find reasons to make it bulletproof - conditions, personnel, mental toughness. It's all there if you look for it.
But that doesn't mean we believe it. None of us will ever be old enough to think SA are not going to win the World Cup. Because that's how sport works. We watch because we believe.
This time? You reckon?

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