TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
RUSSELL Domingo is not bothering with a refresher course in the Heimlich manoeuvre before he goes to the World T20 in India next month. For him, SA are no longer chokers.
“We can’t do any worse than other sides that have been there in the past,” Domingo said. “We’ve been to two World Cups since I’ve been involved (as SA’s head coach). Both times we got to the semi-finals.
“We’ve won a knockout game (for the first time, at the 2015 World Cup), and we’ve played really good cricket in those knockout games.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take your hat off and say well played to the opposition. Both semi-finals we’ve lost has been a case of that.
“There’s by no means been any choking on our part – we’ve just been outplayed by a team that has played better.”
Damn straight. In the 2014 WT20, SA ran into Virat Kohli’s 44-ball 72 not out in the semis and India won by six wickets with five balls to spare.
In the 2015 World Cup, SA ran into a nation wearing black not in mourning but in anticipation of their team fulfilling their destiny.
When South Africans are able to draw the sting from that semi-final in Auckland last March they will see that their men ended up on the wrong side of the equation in a hell of a match that adorns one-day cricket at least as well as the 438 game.
However, looking through the glass half-empty it is tempting to wonder whether the quality of much of the cricket SA have played in the past 12 months means the jury remains out – they haven’t performed well enough often enough to know whether they are still in the habit of squandering winning positions.
But the picture is brighter seen through the glass half-full. Yes, SA have endured a year of decline, winning 18 and losing 16 of their matches across all formats. But, in T20 terms, they have won five of their six games.
Should they carry on in that vein, a place in the WT20 semis seems assured.
“It’s about performing when the pressure is high,” Faf du Plessis said. “That’s what it’s going to take to win a World Cup. The last two World Cups, we’ve done that: we performed when the pressure is high.
“The majority of the squad is from those World Cups and they would have learnt how to handle the pressure moments.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean SA are bulletproofed against the madness that has tended to dog them at tournament time.
As Domingo said, “Every World Cup, South Africa has been involved in there’s always been some controversial thing, whether it’s not reading Duckworth/Lewis properly (which saw SA lurch out of the 2003 world Cup) or Allan (Donald) dropping his bat (during the runout that led to SA’s exit from the 1999 World Cup) or not playing Paul Adams ahead of Donald, there’s always been some sort of thing.
“You’ve just got to try and make the right decisions at the right times. We know what we need to do to pick a team and we need to pick our best players.”
And not semi-fit, out-of-form players, which cost SA dearly that black night in Auckland.