Sri Lanka and South Africa : The Tale of Absurd ‘Choking’
The island nation is considered to be one of the countries which have a rich cricketing heritage. Like India, cricket is revered and the players are considered something more than human. It is the sole reason why Sri Lankan cricket has prospered all through the years giving birth to some of the legends of the game.
Sri Lanka and South Africa : The emergence of Sri Lankan Cricket
Whenever you talk about Sri Lankan cricket, one cannot forget to remember their dramatic and unexpected world cup victory in the year 1996. Coming into the tournament with a relatively inexperienced team, Sri Lanka redefined the art of approaching a limited overs game. The skilful captaincy of Arjuna Ranatunga, the aggressive opening partnerships between Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwithrana who demonstrated the use of the initial overs to full extent, mixed with wily bowling of Vaas and Murali, Sri Lanka had the perfect mix to foil any team’s ambition in the tournament.
It was a dream, a revolution that took Sri Lankan cricket forward. It set the ball rolling for the youngsters to take the game seriously. Since then, Sri Lanka has been viewed upon as a serious contender just like Indian cricket dominance begun after the 1983 world cup triumph. Yet, they haven’t been as successful as they ought to be. They have struggled to make use of the talents they have possessed, ending up short of the line by quite a margin.
In the past seven years including the 2007 World cup, Sri Lanka have managed to reach the finals of four ICC events, ending up as semi-finalists in few others. Their consistency is mind blowing considering the fact that they are not the dominating force in cricket. They have quietly made progress and have used their limited resources to play good cricket.
Their strength lies on the fact that they jell as a unit, understanding their team’s strength and weakness and working inside their talent frame. In spite of all their efforts, they haven’t won any major championship in the last few years. Does that mean they deserve the title of “Chokers” more than South Africa?
Sri Lanka and South Africa : South Africa Redefined Competitiveness in Cricket After their Resurgence
Talking about South Africa, their dominance in World Cricket reminds us of the West Indies of the 70’s and 80’s, though they cannot be termed invincible. Rejoining cricket in 1991 after the ban, South Africa has demonstrated what cricket had been missing in their absence. Their aggressive intent and the ability to produce world class cricketers like Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla speaks volumes of the cricketing genes in their country.
But having a strong team has not helped them in winning them a major trophy in world cricket, though they are technically the number one team in the world. They have won overseas series in almost all the countries and have been the only team who were able to take on the might of Australia in their prime.
The most famous episode in their colossal ‘choking’ ability would be the semi-finals of the 1999 world cup. They threw away a relatively easy match, though one could argue that it was luck which went against them. It might be a twist of fate, but then onwards they failed to gather momentum in knock out tournaments. They failed to capture a single major title barring the Champions trophy.
There is no fair argument to support this failure and even the people concerned are not able to come up with a feasible answer. Gary Kirsten himself rued the inability of his team for being unable to cross the finish line, though they boast of a formidable side.
The credibility of the team is put under the scanner and we can just stop and wonder why they are unable to get past the line, being so consistent and ruthless in their approach. South Africa, especially should be rueing their lost chances after their chain of achievements in world cricket. There should be a reason behind all this, though none could be defining. I have come up with my own analysis for their under par performance:
Sri Lanka and South Africa : Why do they choke?
The Analysis :
Normally, in a major championship tournament, there would be two stages: the round-robin stage and the knock-out stage. The teams that perform consistently in the round robin qualify to the next level and are pitted against strong contenders. The next level is an eliminator where the team that loses a single match gets disqualified.
I firmly believe that this is the area that both Sri Lanka and South Africa lack the necessary momentum. If we analyze the round robin games of both Sri Lanka and South Africa in the Champions Trophy, we could see that both the teams lost their first match before registering comprehensive victories in the next two games to qualify for the semi finals.
The defeat in the first match depicts their inability to settle down quickly though that cannot be termed as the only reason. Having played quality cricket for majority of the tournament, they are bogged down by the pressure to maintain the flow and hence they decimate in the knockouts.
Moreover both the teams are dependent on experienced players to take them through and the others contribute only occasionally. If you take the example of a resurgent India, it is easy to classify their performances since junior players have taken up the mantle and have performed to perfection whereas in case of South Africa and Sri Lanka, it is either a Jayawardene or Amla or Sangakkara or De Villiers whose performances lift the team. Others are merely a source of support and they lack confidence to lead the team with their performances.
Frankly, it has affected the results and it is one of the reasons for their current predicament. There is no shortcut in repairing the damage and the concerned boards should make sure that quality remains all over the team, not just in a handful of players.
Sri Lanka and South Africa : How to Come Out of Their “Chokingmania”
Other than that both are quality teams that boast of world class talents. Their presence makes us enjoy cricket even more. There are players like Kallis and Sangakkara whose class and credibility extends far beyond their countries’ boundaries as they belong to the elite league of cricketers who have achieved almost all there is to achieve in the game. But for both Sangakkara and Kallis, not winning a world cup would definitely be an ache in the heart when the look back at the game after they have retired and they would be itching to win the 2015 world cup and sign off in style. To do that, they need more than the usual efforts; not only they have to perform but have to carry the team through on their shoulders to achieve the ultimate glory. It is a task for the brave and only players like them can accomplish it.
Meanwhile, the onus is on the respective cricket boards to sort out the team and make sure that all the players take up responsibility and perform. There should be no place for average players and tough decisions should be made to drop the ‘experienced’ non-performers. That is the only way forward for both these sides!