South Africa coach confronts ‘choking’ history
SYDNEY: South Africa coach Russell Domingo insisted his side had faced up to their unwanted tag of cricket’s serial “chokers” ahead of a World Cup quarterfinal with Sri Lanka in Sydney on Wednesday.
Despite boasting some of the world’s most outstanding one-day players during the past two decades, the Proteas have not won a knockout match at the World Cup since being allowed into the 1992 edition ahead of the end of apartheid.
That tournament infamously saw South Africa lose in the semifinals to England at the Sydney Cricket Ground after the rain rule in use at the time left them with the impossible task of scoring 22 runs off one ball.
“I was in Matric (secondary school), I was 16-years-old. There’s nothing we can do about what happened in 1992, all our energy is focused on what we need to do leading into this game,” said the now 40-year-old Domingo at the SCG on Monday.
“The legacy of 1992 has very little bearing on now, we want to play our game on Wednesday.”
South Africa lost in the World Cup quarterfinals in 1996 and went out on tournament net run-rate after a tie with eventual champions Australia in a thrilling semifinal in 1999.
Another tie, this time with Sri Lanka in Durban, after a failure to correctly interpret the Duckworth/Lewis rule for rain-affected matches — which owed its origin to what happened to the Proteas in 1992 — meant South Africa bowed out at the initial group stage when they were the main hosts of the 2003 World Cup.
Then came a 2007 semifinal loss to Australia in the Caribbean before a quarterfinal defeat by New Zealand four years ago.
Asked about South Africa’s habit of ‘choking’ in crunch games, Domingo said: “It’s been part of South African cricket for quite some time, every time we get to these events it’s going to be questioned.
“We’ve spoken about it, we’ve faced the fact that in the past we have let opportunities slip by us. Hopefully, we have learnt from the mistakes that previous sides have made at events like this.
“And by all means we want to avoid that happening to us. But at the end of the day, we just want to play good cricket if the opportunity arises.
“If somebody is in that stage of the game under pressure, we try to focus on things we’ve done really well and not get too caught up in the past.”
Domingo added: “We know we’ve come here with a clean slate…We come here knowing that if we play to the best of our abilities, we’ve got a good chance of winning on Wednesday.”
The Proteas have again used the services of South Africa-born explorer Mike Horn in a bid to ease the pressure on their side.
“He’s done a lot scarier things in the world than facing Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel, he’s done some extreme things,” said Domingo.
“He will put it all into perspective for us over the next couple of days about what pressure and fear’s like and being out of your comfort zone, because he’s been in that situation a lot of times with real-life experiences, not just facing a cricket ball.”
Domingo added: “He’s been with us before and adds a lot of energy, he connects with the players, it’s great fun to have him with us.”