Hopefully the Proteas will be much more relaxed when they face New Zealand on Wednesday after finally breaking their duck at the 2019 World Cup, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
It’s taken a couple of weeks and five matches for South Africa to get going in this World Cup. For much of the showpiece tournament they have been reluctantly testing the waters like a swimmer putting his toes in first before braving the icy waters of Bloubergstrand.
The South Africans haven’t played with any sort of freedom or confidence since the Imran Tahir plan worked nicely at the start of their World Cup opener against England. Since then it’s been pretty much defensive and reactionary cricket.
They even looked apprehensive at the start of their match against minnows Afghanistan, while Hashim Amla’s effort in the chase also resembled a team still stuck in second gear.
New Zealand, on the other hand, have had a lovely start to the tournament. They sit in second place with three wins from their opening four matches. One of their fixtures was abandoned because of rain.
For them it’s not quite a must-win match against the Proteas, who have suffered three defeats and one no-result before beating Afghanistan. So, they will play their normal game, pretty much stress free.
But the Proteas need to try to do the same, even though they could be knocked out of contention if they lose on Wednesday.
They need break free of this fear of failure, because it’s really bogged them down, together with all the injuries they’ve suffered so far.
Bangladesh’s win over the Proteas and West Indies are two fine examples of players just going out there and playing with freedom and enjoying the occasion. They have embraced those big moments at this tournament, especially with the bat.
When you look at the Proteas, all you see is stress, and players creeping into their shells when it gets too hot in the kitchen. It’s something that has derailed many World Cup campaigns for South Africa in the recent past.
There is a lot riding on Wednesday’s clash for the Proteas. Their World Cup participation is pretty much on the line. But, instead of buckling under the pressure that comes with these sorts of clashes, they have to embrace it.
The Proteas need to finally take this World Cup by the horns and play with a freedom and confidence, otherwise they might as well pack their bags and book their flights home.