England v SA, Champions Trophy, semi-final, The Oval June 19, 2013

Kirsten accepts that South Africa choked

ESPNcricinfo staff

In his final act as South Africa coach, Gary Kirsten did not shy away from the team's uncomfortable history of failing at pressure stages in major events, accepting they "choked" against England, a term he called "horrible", and that it does not reflect well on his time as coach.

The word has been associated with South Africa since the 1999 World Cup when they fell at the semi-final stage in an agonising tie against Australia. It was the same hurdle that proved too much this time as they were thrashed by seven wickets at The Oval, having crashed to 80 for 8 on their way to 175.

Before the match, AB de Villiers spoke of it being a chance to shed the tag which has haunted them for more than a decade but instead the outgoing coach has ensured it will remain firmly associated with them until at least the 2015 World Cup.

"I think we did choke in the game," Kirsten said. "It's an uncomfortable word but you've got to make yourself comfortable with it. It's a horrible word, it does get used, we've spoken about it, we are open about it.

"We let ourselves down. You've got to accept that's what it is. They bowled exceptionally well but that doesn't mean your batting line-up should be 80 for 8.

"If we had the secret recipe to turn it around, we would certainly have packaged it and be selling it. We give it our best shot in our preparation, we try different things. It's definitely a dark mist that hangs over South African cricket in knockout events.

"At some point we are going to have to try and cross the line. It's going to require some real charisma, some real guts and glory to get over the line. It might not be pretty but at some point we are going to have to do it. It is an unfortunate thing. It's not for lack of trying. It does require an enormous amount of resilience, maybe certain types of individuals who can do it for us."

"These guys play really good cricket year after year. At some point, you need to cross the line because people will continue looking at you and saying you can't do it. I don't think as individuals they get emotionally hijacked because they play brilliantly for other teams. It will require some really tough individuals to overcome it."

Kirsten did not hold back during his press conference, where he attended instead of de Villiers, and admitted the team's lack of global one-day silverware did not show his tenure in a good light despite his achievements in the Test arena.

"We haven't improved, he said. "That's where the question mark needs to come over me so maybe it's not a bad thing I am leaving. As a coach you always want to take the team forward. There are some good signs. We are playing some good one-day cricket but in events of this nature, we haven't gone forward.

"We haven't been consistent. That's maybe because we've explored quite a lot of combinations over the last few years. We've broadened our base. When you play in important tournaments like this maybe you get exposed. We've given it our best shot to try and overcome it and we haven't."

Dale Steyn was forced to sit out the semi-final with a groin injury - following a side problem earlier in the tournament - which meant South Africa were missing four senior players; Jacques Kallis ruled himself out before the event, Graeme Smith pulled out due an ankle injury and Morne Morkel flew home after the first game.

When it was suggested that Kallis left a particularly large hole to fill, after his personal decision not to play the tournament, Kirsten said that the team could not rely on always having someone who is in the latter stage of his career.

"In high pressure games, you want your most experienced players," Kirsten said. "But at the same time they can have a lot of scarring from past events. South African cricket has got to move past Jacques Kallis.

"We've got to start finding other players, which I think we have. Our strength was our batting line-up and we focused our attention on the middle order. Bowling-wise, we've explored the talent. There is still more out there. At some point you need to find some stability."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 23, 2013, 21:14 GMT

    What would one say when England lost the finals against India, were England too got choked. This time I felt South Africa was clearly missing good genuine opener who can give them good start. In bowling their main bowlers were injured at a knock out stage which was unfortunate. Rain help SA a little bit against West Indies, if not WI would have qualified for semis. Over all SA won only 2 games and lost 2 one in league and in semis. I feel SA must quickly find a solution for opening slot in batting. That is the only area they are having problem. Whether Kristen agrees that SA choked at bigger stage is matter of time. SA will win a major tournament if they sort all the areas like having a good openers, play better against spinning bowling. Surprisingly they were poor in form against swing bowling as well. With so many flaws in batting expect them to win against in form England side is not that easy. I hope SA will surely be improving in coming days. I wish them all the best

  • greig on June 22, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    We are bunch of chockers in competitions. No doubting that. But this wasn't a choke we were outplayed by a much better team. I think AB should lose the captaincy and give the gloves to de Kock. AB is a nice guy but to me doesnt have the steel needed to be captain. Back to the drawing board...again.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    SA batting did never deserve to the lineup they included. SA should have a Captain Like MS Dhoni who Stand tall in all such crunch situations. Why on earth Peterson came down as one down in this batting line up. One down should have been FAF /Duminy or AB himself as a captain like MS would have done in a similar match situation in order to take the team forward. Before next world cup SA should find a solid captain who can lead from front.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2013, 3:50 GMT

    India faced similar "choking" issues against Pakistan when the two nations started cricket relationship in the late 1970s after many years. Asif Iqbal and company (Imran Khan later) were a handful for the lethargic Indians. It took a new breed of Indian cricketers to have the self-belief and confidence to get the monkey off their backs. The contemporary young Indians have this in ample measure which is demonstrated by their performance on the field. South Africa have to deal this problem in their own way. However, the sooner they devise a way out the better.

  • Michael on June 22, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    While I agree with most that in this instance the proteas didn't choke perse they have and do choke in most WC / high pressure games. The reason for saying perse is that in this particular game if one considers how they played from the onset they would have choked f they had batted second.

    The only way the proteas are ever going to overcome this mantle is to accept that they do fall prey to a nervous disposition which forces them to choke. If the proteas are to reach their potential and become known as greats they need to adopt a "not going down without a fight mentality" for every game and opposition faced. This requires letting go of the save face (conservative) mentality which most often results in lose face.

  • Ram on June 21, 2013, 23:14 GMT

    Get Gibbs to coach them . He has the right mental attitude. Please don't ever bring Smith into the game . He only has one style of batting and they catch him out on it always . Duminy is history .

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 17:31 GMT

    It was a mistake not to appoint Johan Botha as captain of the ODI team a year ago.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 16:31 GMT

    The problem with South Africa is that their batting is letting them down. After Greame Smith left as opener, they were not able to find good player as opener. That is the first problem, SA know the conditions against England but they were not able to handle Anderson. If they could have batted little patiently against him then they would surely would have put the good total on board. This match I do not think that was choked one, two players made the difference one is Kallis and then Dale Steyn. One more thing is that De Villiers is feeling pressure when given captaincy. The two semi final pitches weren't that great. Both the games were one sided that tells that team which won the toss have managed to win in the end. Let us see how finals would be. After having so many good players in the team SA was on the losing side in the end. Coaching staff too was top one and then also not able to win it is disappointing.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    I think we choked against New Zealand last world cup, where we were in a position to win and threw it away against a side we should have beaten, but this was just a poor batting display against a good bowling attack with the ball doing a bit. We missed Kallis badly, or a guy like trott who stops the flow of wickets.

    Sri Lanka scored just about the same in the other semi-final, no-one calls them chokers. We're a good side, but we're not the best ODI side at the moment, so we cant expect to win and then call our team chokers if we dont.

    Still considering the talent we have, its not good enough. The interview pretty much says it all about Gary Kirsten, the man is a legend, and I wish him all the best.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    SA are a good side, their batting and bowling line up can scare players, what they lack is imagination and creativity. They are predictable, Miller, Ingram, Morris and McClaren are good! I think SA need to rotate their player in accordance to who they come up against just like football/soccer teams do. I think SA could have beat England, maybe they need to take courses in mental preparation?