Babble Without a Pause

March 18, 2015

Chokers No More

Filed under: Cricket,Sport — rajivmathew @ 3:41 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Australia celebrate
Laugh at me. Call me a traitor. Call me a fool. Call me what you will. But with the knockout stage of this World Cup finally here, I, a perennial Indian cricket fan, have begun to realize which team I really feel like rallying behind. And it is not the country you would assume. For all the pomp of an undefeated run in the league stage, an unprecedented 6 consecutive bowl-outs, for the ripping victories, India has played some shitty cricket for a long while now. If we eventually win, it would be a result of a brief golden run, but one that is in stark contrast to a positively mediocre run for the 4 years that have gone before. No, I think the time has come for a country that has for so long played some of the most consistently top-notch cricket, and been a perennial member of the Top 3 year after year, yet has been brutally denied a single knockout match win at the World Cup, let alone the entire tournament. For a team so talented, so exciting to watch, that is a crime against sport.

So for the rest of this world cup, I will cheer South Africa on, and I will do so knowing that far less deserving countries have won it, and it is only fair that a country as talented as SA, one that endured being ostracized for decades as a proxy on behalf of a political system that wasn’t directly of their doing, one that came back from said international sport ostracism, to be screwed out of a place in the finals because of an asinine rain rule (that has since only got sillier in its new avatar as the Duckworth-Lewis rule). Once they shrug this voodoo off their back, they can, should, and will win this cup. Four years ago, India said they won it for Sachin. This year, some sixth sense tells me SA will win this for AB. And they will win it for Gibbs, who dropped the catch that kept them from greatness. And for White Lightning, who must even now be heartbroken for his role in that same loss. They will win it for Klusener, their champion who almost single-handedly won it for them 16 years ago. And lest we forget, they will win it for Cronje, who for all his failings as a sportsman and as a human, and in spite of all that he did to push them back 100 million miles in their evolution as a cricketing nation, still remains their finest captain ever. They will win it for Bob Woolmer, a coach who revolutionized the concept of technology in sport all those years ago, ushering in a new era for competitive sport. And they will win it for Boucher, for Kallis, for Kirsten, for Smith, for Ntini, for Pollock, for Cullinan, and for Jonty.

Watch South Africa play the game, and you realize why this team, more than ANY other, deserves to win, and win big this time. For a team as talented, if not more talented than Australia, South Africa really do play the game hard but fair. It’s a phrase so absolutely cliched and so triflingly used by Australia, that it has seemingly lost all meaning. When the spoilt brats of cricket have time and time again crossed the line with inappropriate behavior more suited for the WWE, their cricket achievements and all their wins have been used to defend their boorish, even juvenile ways. The ends supposedly justify the means.

But watch South Africa bat, bowl, and field, and you have in front of you a team that very rarely comes close to the line, let alone jump over it. This is a team that has, over the years, (clown characters like Andre Nel aside) maintained a very high level of class when playing the game. They don’t walk past the stumps and knock the bails off then appeal like it was out. They don’t appeal for a stumping when they know the ball isn’t even in their hands. They don’t bowl underarm to avoid losing. They don’t edge a ball to slip and stand rooted to the crease pretending nothing happened.

Don’t believe me yet? Try this for an exercise. Look up ‘South Africa cricket controversy’ on Youtube. Tell me what you see. I’ll tell you what I see in the search results: not one single controversy or video of them acting like spoiled rich kids. Hell, the top 15 search results include videos detailing a Kevin Pietersen controversy, a DRS fail, and a Shane Warne v. Marlon Samuels fiasco video. Scroll further down on the first page of results, you see the following:

  • Richard Levi Fastest T20 Century for South Africa
  • Top 10 Best Cricket Fielders Ever in Cricket History
  • Proteas Surprise Visit

    That’s right, a video of the fastest century, a clip of the top 10 best fielders, with the thumbnail appropriately enough being Jonty Rhodes flying horizontal to the earth, and finally, a clip of 6 of the team’s top players voluntarily taking time out of their busy schedules to visit a boy who idolizes them. All positive, endearing videos. If this isn’t a deserving team, I don’t know who is. This is a team that is cultured, a team that has so much talent they can afford to bench real stars, a team that respects the game, and doesn’t terrorize umpires every minute of the game. Why haven’t they won a World Cup? Your guess is as good as mine.So starting today, and until the end of this World Cup, I intend to cheer for South Africa for every fibre of my being. Because while the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ lecture is just that, a long-winded annual essay on why the spirit of sportsmanship is essential in theory, this team is one of the very few that lives it, and plays it, and believes it. Not just to win an annual ‘Spirit of Cricket’ award. But because it is the right thing.So come on, South Africa. It is your time now. Prove that nice guys can finish first. Fear not the choke. Just go for broke.

“No one is going to ask us if we played exceptional cricket when we win the World Cup, we’re just going to say that we won the Cup, so we’re just going to find a way to win the game tomorrow. All I can say is we’re not going to choke. We’re just going to play a good game of cricket tomorrow and come out on top. Simple.”

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