Yet again on Thursday night, South Africa slumped in the face of pressure, justifying their reputation as the big-game chokers — their Twenty20 World Cup exit was reminiscent of their misfortunes in the ODI World Cup.
Had South Africa managed to reach 126 against India, they would have qualified for the semifinals ahead of New Zealand on a better net run rate, despite losing the game.
But they couldn’t. While a disappointed Graeme Smith said that his team “finds ways to get out of these big tournaments”, he also criticised the format of the event.
“The format of the tournament is a bit weird,” said the South Africa skipper. “Some teams have made it to the semis despite losing two games, and we are out after losing our first!”
Australia and New Zealand have lost two games each and have still made it to the semifinals, having raised their game in the Super Eights.
Tim Nielsen, the coach of the Australian team — who don’t let any opportunity pass to mock at the South Africans —had no sympathy for South Africa. “Sympathy is not the right word,” Nielsen said. “This is what these tournaments are all about.”
Nielsen also pointed out that in these big events, playing at “crunch time” becomes crucial. “It is not about how many games you win, it is about winning at the right time and when you are under pressure,” he said. “When you’re under the pump, you have to perform and this is what this team has not done for a long time.”
Nielsen added: “And they showed it again yesterday.”
India cricket manager Lalchand Rajput also dismissed Smith’s view. “It depends on the laws that are being used,” Rajput said. “The format is the same for all the teams, so sometimes you have to take it the hard way.”