TELFORD VICE, Sydney
What does SA’s thumping win over Sri Lanka in their World Cup quarter-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday mean to AB de Villiers?
“Absolutely nothing,” De Villiers said. “You are going to have to start over again. And the hard work starts now. We didn’t come all this way to say we made it to the semi-finals of a World Cup. We want to go all the way. We believe we have the right group to achieve that.”
That was De Villiers the captain speaking, the leader of a team who have fastened their seatbelts and been cleared for take-off. But, as a human being and as a South African, things weren’t quite as clinical.
“In tournaments like this you’re always under pressure and you want to do the people who support you proud,” De Villiers said. “You want to make them feel they’re supporting the right team and that they’re supporting for the right reasons.”
SA had to overcome a poor performance against India and a loss in a game they should have won, against Pakistan, to reach the knockout stages. Happily, then, they are able to look back on those setbacks as having made them stronger.
“A big part part of sport is about confidence and the way you believe in your ability,” De Villiers said. “We’re committed to the fact that we’re not going to show any weaknesses.
“You know that things don’t always go your way; you can’t dominate for 100 overs. But the way you take a couple of shots on the chin is really important. And the belief to know that the guy next to you will go to war with you.
“We felt that walking onto the field. When we sang the anthem we felt really proud. When we shook each others’ hands we were ready to play some really good cricket.”
What De Villiers did not say was that SA did more than they thought on Wednesday. Too often a team who over-think to a crippling degree, they put their faith in deeds rather than needs and reaped a handsome reward.
Or, as Kumar Sangakkara said, “There’s no secret to playing good cricket. It’s making the best use of your talent, working as hard as you can in the nets, and then making the right decisions out in the middle.”
Sangakkara should know, having played 130 tests, 404 one-day internationals and 56 T20 internationals. Wednesday’s match was his last ODI.
Why was he retiring, especially as he had scored four successive centuries at the World Cup before the quarter-final?
“See the tape holding my fingers together,” Sangakkara asked, holding up a pair of hands on which only his left index finger had not been swathed in bandages. “There’s a lot more holding my body together.”
Lost in the fuss over SA’s win and over Sangakkara, who still has a few tests left, was the fact that Mahela Jayawardene’s international career ended on Wednesday.
“I’m sure he’s going to be thoroughly disappointed (about the result), but sometimes there is a bit of relief when your career ends,” Sangakkara said.
“The high-pressure situations, the warm-ups, the ice baths, the recovery sessions, all of that, all repeated over 16 or 17 years, can get a bit much.”
What does De Villiers know of that feeling right now? Absolutely nothing.