World Twenty20 2012 September 15, 2012

De Villiers raring to set South African record straight

AB de Villiers, it would appear, just cannot wait to face up to and ease the memories of South Africa's past misdemeanours at this World Twenty20
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Anybody daring to ask Graeme Smith why South Africa routinely choked in major competitions was best advised to first check their life insurance. The word was on South African cricket's banned list during last year's World Cup and, when it was uttered, Smith bristled in a manner that suggested the conversation was best left unfinished.

"So you have been out in the middle?" Smith railed. "You understand all that? Every time we walk into a press conference, it's the question we expect to get."

It made no difference: South Africa were thrashed by New Zealand in the quarter-final in Mirpur, Smith retired as one-day captain, as he had always planned, after eight years in the job, and even such a redoubtable leader had failed to lead his shrewd, methodical and talented team to a major one-day prize.

AB de Villiers, Smith's replacement as one-day captain, tried a different tack as South Africa arrived in Colombo. Superficially at least, he does not possess Smith's air of defiance, but he could not wait to face down South Africa's past misdemeanours, so much so that if somebody had asked him about the price of mangoes in Pettah Market he would probably have said: "Ah, I know you are secretly referring to choking, and there is something I want to say about this ..."

Few cricket writers know the price of mangoes in Pettah Market but, rightly or wrongly, most think South Africa chokes are ten a penny.

The question was framed innocently enough: "South Africa is a powerhouse when it comes to cricket but, when you enter big tournaments, does it play on your mind that the major trophy remains elusive?"

De Villiers's eyes narrowed. "I am going to be very honest with you," he said. "I am going to put it out there straight up front. We have choked in the past and we know about that - if that's the word you are looking for. It is as simple as that. We have had some really bad experiences in the past but I would like to emphasise that it is past.

"We come in with a whole new look in this team. We have worked really hard with a whole new management team, who have given us a lot of energy and new ideas. We will approach this tournament differently and we would like to win the pressure situations. We are going out there to do exactly that."

Colombo was the scene of one of South Africa's most bewildering defeats of all. Ten years ago, they faced India in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy and were 192 for 1, needing 70 from 14 overs, when Herschelle Gibbs retired with cramp in both hands. The game was theirs, but cramp spread to the entire batting line-up and they lost by 10 runs.

Study a list of South Africa's defeats in major one-day tournaments and there have been as many pseudo chokes as real chokes. Sometimes they have just been outplayed by a better side and the cliché has been levelled at them anyway. There seemed little appetite for bringing the subject up again. Then de Villiers did it anyway.

Smith has surely never felt as much hurt as he did after that New Zealand defeat. He looked mentally and physically broken. "Hopefully in the future somebody will go all the way," Smith said then. That hope now rests with de Villiers. But nobody will really believe it until they see it.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY CRIC_or_CRIC on | September 18, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    Oh.. This is the first time I guess Virat Kholi's Name is not mentioned in comments "irrespective whether the article is about him"......

  • POSTED BY mahjut on | September 18, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    I think it must also be said that if SA win this they should not for a second think the journos will step away from their standard arguement - they will still have to win the next ODI WC and the first Test cup to shake that title of chokers

  • POSTED BY on | September 18, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    IF THEY CAN WIN A BIG ONE I BELIEVE THEY WILL RULE CRICKET LIKE WIN&AUSSIES

  • POSTED BY mahjut on | September 17, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    i think the author summed it up in the most annoyingly obvious way ever "no-one really believes it till they see it". I absolutely agree but for me it extends beyond SA...I can't believe anyone will win this tourny (i suppose one may say in which case i belive anyone can - no, there are some teams which are a certain NO). There are always 3/4 contenders and the very occasional surprise but of the 3/4 contenders i have never thought (apart from Oz 'after' in the 2003 and 2007 WCs) "i believe X will win" . So, i will believe that SA will win the tourny when they have ... and that goes for all the other teams too!!

  • POSTED BY mahjut on | September 17, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    don't try to use a T20 tourny to talk of putting ghosts behind AB - did you know there are tounaments in rock,paper,scissors? someone has to win a tourny but it T20!? forget it ... and hope. As for 'chokers' honestly those shouting the most will be those who have won nothing ... OZ (always favourites at ODI WCups) won 3 times running didn't they? so who are these people shouting chokers - either punters from the winning team(who were always touted to win) or from teams who couldn't muster a good enough side to be seen as potential competitors to OZ. LOL - wear it as a badge mate!!!

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    I think that SA can really do it this time round, I know everyone says that every time a World Cup comes around but this is surely their best chance of recent times!? Since readmission they have been really unlucky..the ridiculous instance being 1992 against England with the 22 runs off 1 ball incident and robbing them of a WC Final and possibly winning the WC at their first attempt since readmission.

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    S.A no chance of winning esp in srilankan conditions....:)

  • POSTED BY klapka on | September 17, 2012, 3:56 GMT

    @MattyP1979: I don't know about the whole '99% of all fans like test no.1 compared to other victories' idea mate. Indians seemed very happy after winning the world cup and I didnt see many celebrations out on the street when we were test no.1 the same year. And assuming at least 50% of all cricket fans in the world are Indians the numbers don't add up. But its obvious that English fans prefer test cricket more and believe that its the pinnacle of cricket in a lot of ways. Frankly, I agree with you on both of those counts.

  • POSTED BY cricketfannik on | September 17, 2012, 1:43 GMT

    SA do it this time man its about time its been 20 years of come back cricket. they play well but seriously big tournaments phew struggling big time :)

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 20:59 GMT

    and it's only the past that has come to haunt you back always!

  • POSTED BY CRIC_or_CRIC on | September 18, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    Oh.. This is the first time I guess Virat Kholi's Name is not mentioned in comments "irrespective whether the article is about him"......

  • POSTED BY mahjut on | September 18, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    I think it must also be said that if SA win this they should not for a second think the journos will step away from their standard arguement - they will still have to win the next ODI WC and the first Test cup to shake that title of chokers

  • POSTED BY on | September 18, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    IF THEY CAN WIN A BIG ONE I BELIEVE THEY WILL RULE CRICKET LIKE WIN&AUSSIES

  • POSTED BY mahjut on | September 17, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    i think the author summed it up in the most annoyingly obvious way ever "no-one really believes it till they see it". I absolutely agree but for me it extends beyond SA...I can't believe anyone will win this tourny (i suppose one may say in which case i belive anyone can - no, there are some teams which are a certain NO). There are always 3/4 contenders and the very occasional surprise but of the 3/4 contenders i have never thought (apart from Oz 'after' in the 2003 and 2007 WCs) "i believe X will win" . So, i will believe that SA will win the tourny when they have ... and that goes for all the other teams too!!

  • POSTED BY mahjut on | September 17, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    don't try to use a T20 tourny to talk of putting ghosts behind AB - did you know there are tounaments in rock,paper,scissors? someone has to win a tourny but it T20!? forget it ... and hope. As for 'chokers' honestly those shouting the most will be those who have won nothing ... OZ (always favourites at ODI WCups) won 3 times running didn't they? so who are these people shouting chokers - either punters from the winning team(who were always touted to win) or from teams who couldn't muster a good enough side to be seen as potential competitors to OZ. LOL - wear it as a badge mate!!!

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    I think that SA can really do it this time round, I know everyone says that every time a World Cup comes around but this is surely their best chance of recent times!? Since readmission they have been really unlucky..the ridiculous instance being 1992 against England with the 22 runs off 1 ball incident and robbing them of a WC Final and possibly winning the WC at their first attempt since readmission.

  • POSTED BY on | September 17, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    S.A no chance of winning esp in srilankan conditions....:)

  • POSTED BY klapka on | September 17, 2012, 3:56 GMT

    @MattyP1979: I don't know about the whole '99% of all fans like test no.1 compared to other victories' idea mate. Indians seemed very happy after winning the world cup and I didnt see many celebrations out on the street when we were test no.1 the same year. And assuming at least 50% of all cricket fans in the world are Indians the numbers don't add up. But its obvious that English fans prefer test cricket more and believe that its the pinnacle of cricket in a lot of ways. Frankly, I agree with you on both of those counts.

  • POSTED BY cricketfannik on | September 17, 2012, 1:43 GMT

    SA do it this time man its about time its been 20 years of come back cricket. they play well but seriously big tournaments phew struggling big time :)

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 20:59 GMT

    and it's only the past that has come to haunt you back always!

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | September 16, 2012, 19:46 GMT

    @MattyP1979: I strongly feel you guys (English fans) should stop offering excuses of how important the test format is whenever you fail miserably in limited overs competitions. Do you think the other nations are wasting their time playing in such events ? Give me a break. I can understand the purity of test cricket and all that *rolls eyes*, but seriously it's high time test cricket is limited ONLY to a few series on an annual basis. Too many meaningless series played now. Oh and yes it's unfair to call SA chokers all the time. They deserve some slack in the T20 format.

  • POSTED BY wolf777 on | September 16, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    I think the South Africans will choke...again!

  • POSTED BY djdrastic on | September 16, 2012, 18:55 GMT

    Pretty unconvinced AB.You said the same during the ODI wc as well Abe.We were ahead during the ODI and t20 series and we ended up drawing both with England.

  • POSTED BY Kronicle1860 on | September 16, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    Hey don't go attacking Sa's achievements. We are the only team to perform in the subcontinent excelently REGULARLY. So if a team performs poorly in every series except against affiliate countries but win the world cup then do they really deserve to be champions. Of course taking nothing away from INdia. But SA will win soon under AB and will destroy with the two heavyweights AMLA and KALLIS. PS. In recent years we haven't really played PAK so figure...Get some REAL facts.

  • POSTED BY MattyP1979 on | September 16, 2012, 18:34 GMT

    The yard stick fot cricket is always tests/50/then 20. 99% of fans would want their test team ranked no.1 above all else (coming from an Englishman). Should be a good competition but with so few overs more luck is envloved and the title of chockers seems a little unfair.

  • POSTED BY Nadeem1976 on | September 16, 2012, 17:23 GMT

    i hope SA wins this WC under AB. No doubt Garry and AB can do it this time.

  • POSTED BY TommytuckerSaffa on | September 16, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    Agree on all accounts, that tie is a shocker...

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | September 16, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    AB, you all owe this to that one great man Jacques Kallis. Do it for him before he calls it a day.

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    @danny sing india did win the world cup bcoz they are big match players,they won it for billions of indians not just for one indian.Jack is a gr8 player and one of the gr8s but cannot be called as the greatest cricketer of all time.There are some players who have achieved more than him.Jack is respected all over for his humility and grace.But is he a big match player????That is the big question.

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 14:10 GMT

    SA is not winning this world T20 tournament,India will win this world cup.SA are not chokers.They simply are not big match players.

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 12:54 GMT

    SA have failed in subcontinent in 50 OVER cricket for 20 years. ALL THEIR SO CALLED SUCCESS HAS BEEN VS PAK. SA have been poor in India and Lanka in 50over cricket. But brilliant in tests. they are getting overrated due to that.

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    Go SA at least win this for the legand jacques kallis before he retires just like assies win for steve wah & india win for sachin but neither are these players are as complete in cricket as jacques kallis!! in my opinion kallis is the greatest cricketer in all cricket i just cant see y people cant stop fooling them selves an accept the great one!! so com on SA send the legand off with a big smile, all hail jacques kallis

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 12:38 GMT

    Really gracious comments here - myself and many other Saffa's (I am sure) appreciate it. The Proteas earned the chokers tag because they have consistently not lived up to their abilities in crunch games. What they have lacked is the ability to laugh at themselves and get over it quickly - the Aussies and other teams are good at this. I sincerely hope they can do what AB is talking about but in order to do that, they need to get to an international final. Seeing them get so close, so many times and stumbling just before the finishing line has been heart breaking and frustrating. I personally don't expect them to get further than the semi's of this tournament - but Hashim Amla may be the one man who can make the difference.

  • POSTED BY TommytuckerSaffa on | September 16, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    T20 cricket is for women and children. I agree it has helped make the longer forms of the game more attractive (test and ODI) but I still dont believe it is a true test of a teams overall ability. SA are No.1 were it counts, Test match cricket. If we lose or 'choke' in this comp I couldnt care less, if we win then great.

  • POSTED BY KunzMan on | September 16, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    I guess its better SA camp don't discuss it at all and focus on the right issues. Am sure media will do everything possible to have questions centered around the word should SA make it to the big games...

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    Though I am Indian, I want SA to win a trophy. This year has been good for chokers. Andy Murray won us open, similarly SA may win world t20

  • POSTED BY BellCurve on | September 16, 2012, 8:23 GMT

    I am a loyal supporter of the Proteas. When we first really choked in an ODI in a major competition, in 1999 when Donald dropped his bat, it took me weeks to get over it. I just couldn't watch the replays on television. But now when I watch that clip on Youtube I laugh. It's awesome entertainment. Over the years I have grown to accept that we will choke. I look forward to see what the come up with this time. We are ODI chokers and proud of it. We're also statistically (based on W/L ratio) the best Test team in the world over the last 50 years and currently ranked No1. We're proud of that too. Enjoy our next choke. We own that tag.

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 8:16 GMT

    Please SA don't run out Amla, that will ur cause to win this T20 Cup! A Pakistani!

  • POSTED BY 2nd_Slip on | September 16, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    I hope the word chokers doesnt get throwin in South Africas way if they fail to win this thing because, truelly speaking ,bar the 4 weakest sides, this thing can be won by anybody who gets lucky during the knockout stages. And just so you know, priding yourself in being hit and giggle champions in rediculous.

  • POSTED BY Arthaurian on | September 16, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    PROTEAS are not going to win this tournament

  • POSTED BY Prabhash1985 on | September 16, 2012, 3:54 GMT

    As a Sri Lankan, we have huge respect for the South African team. For me, it's really amazing that they didn't win at least once in the world cup.

    But they are the all time best for me, regardless of my love to Sri Lankan team... Alan Donald, Hansy, Makaya, Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes, AB! Goodness me! They are among the greatest of all time... It's a balanced team... They can win! But I wish my country may win the tournament... Anyway, SA is the highest threat as far as I can understand...

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    I was born in Nepal, and i dream every day to watch live SA play.... This is my first comment...SA will prove that they were "C", and NOT NOW....Hashim, Jacq, Devillers, Steyn, please, prove this world...we are Not "C"...Infact, i want to go SA for my honeymoon..

  • POSTED BY sukku88 on | September 16, 2012, 1:40 GMT

    All the best Team ABD... Love to see Steyn, Amla & ABD in action...

  • POSTED BY hiteshsjoshi on | September 16, 2012, 0:50 GMT

    Only 2 of the Saffers from the India-SA game are playing in this cup (India has 5 of them). Surprisingly, one of them is Robin Peterson. Never thought, he has played for that long (not in terms of games played though).

  • POSTED BY Dale_Pain on | September 16, 2012, 0:43 GMT

    What a wonderfully insightful debate! It is T20 cricket - anything can happen! Who cares anyway? The real final was played between South Africa and England a few months ago and South Africa won to become the no.1 team. T20 and baseball are both entertaining games, but... neither are proper CRICKET. Even average medium pacers who wouldn't have a Test bowling average below 40 can take wickets in T20 cricket...

  • POSTED BY on | September 16, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    I think the more important question is... Why does AB Devilliers always wear such awful ties in public!?

  • POSTED BY sbajpai on | September 15, 2012, 22:34 GMT

    the poms are here, the oz's are here....why is SA choking they r #1 haha hilarious. ??? get a grip of yourselves, OZ were lucky to have such great players, eng fluked it by winnig against teams who were caught ofguard, and funny enough lost the ranking in less than a year without winning a single series, no bigger lols than that. i wish SA best of luck for their tournament, Eng dont have the right to Question SA!!, its only 20 yrs in the system and they havent won a cup. england invented the game and won one ICC trophy, after being repeatedly thrashed in international arena ever since there were 3 or more teams who played international cricket. England always derives confidence from early 1900's when they played against same bowling attack for 20 yrs on same 8 pitches for 20 yrs. Yes your right this is what a cricketer's performance should be benchmarked by, perhaps only if you wish to be an underachiever.

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | September 15, 2012, 22:23 GMT

    Something tells me SA could win it this time. I mean... MOST of their players play in the IPL. So experience of sub continental conditions shouldn't be any excuse. Also, I feel SA are well past their choker tag given how smoothly they pushed England off the world test no.1 ranking. In addition, SA have some of the best players of T20 cricket available to them. Not to mention, Mr Hashim Amla - the ever dependable. He's quickly becoming the next Mr.Cricket and keeps scoring heaps of runs. SA's major problem could be their lack of decent spinners apart from Johan Botha. If they do have an off game, that could put them off the intensity. Still, I am hopeful they would reach the semis.

  • POSTED BY Nair_saab on | September 15, 2012, 21:06 GMT

    If any team needs to win this cup badly it is south africa. I think Guru Gary has already taken care of their choking problems. Will be defanitely following you gus..best of luck

  • POSTED BY Electric_L0ser_Wacko on | September 15, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    Choke Alert !!!! Choke Alert !!!... But i think they're a better team than that term...

  • POSTED BY suniljoseph on | September 15, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    i am dead sure south africa will choke once again. because this is the revival time for the west indies and they are going to win this tournament. the only hurdle which could come in their way is the deadly dangerous pakistan team. because pakistan team has the history of doing the very best from a positon of nothing and they may well do this time again. but i am very much confident of the west indies team this time.

  • POSTED BY cricroop on | September 15, 2012, 18:25 GMT

    Even England didnt win an ICC tournament before they won the 2010 t20 world cup. So hope it's sa this time.

  • POSTED BY Master_Mihil on | September 15, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    Sorry proteas, i really don't feel for you. This whole situation is hilarious to me. Asking perhaps the best team in the world right now "why you choke always?" is jus..t epic!!

  • POSTED BY sharj33l on | September 15, 2012, 17:02 GMT

    Good luck africa this time the cup is yours...

    and waqar hasan mind your team... bangali tigers are roaring for hunt...

  • POSTED BY tanveer131 on | September 15, 2012, 16:40 GMT

    Why this all about ODI's this is world T20

  • POSTED BY rajesh_sehwag on | September 15, 2012, 16:37 GMT

    Yes they are entitled chockers but beyond any doubt they are one of the few teams...other tha Nz,Aus...who always lighten up the big tourneys with stellar performances and ruthless advances on opposition.I am a big fan of proteas and their approach towards the game, their fitness and comradery.As "Cronje","Boucher","Smith" have hoped for their future gen to go all the way.....This is an INDIAN fan wishing them a good tourney.Let the games begin.....;)

  • POSTED BY on | September 15, 2012, 16:23 GMT

    South Africans are one of the most talented teams in World Cricket. They might have choked on a few occasions. But sticking the label of chokers, EVERY time they lose is just not fair. More than the global cricket lovers, it is the scribes who had been trying to derive some kind of weird pleasure out of indiscriminate use of the choke word. It's just not right.

  • POSTED BY cheguramana on | September 15, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    I really do think SA are out of the 'choking zone'. After all, they beat Aus in Aus and took the No.1 Test ranking. They have just done it once again by beating Eng in Eng. From now on, its just going to be form and opportunity that counts. They really shud win a major ICC trophy : hope its the next time though, I hope India wins this particular WCT20 !

  • POSTED BY jabrankundi on | September 15, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    This is not news. Since time immemorial, sportsmen have been saying things like 'we won't repeat past mistakes', 'we will try to put in a better performance', 'we will not take any team easy'. It pains me to see such statements made news item again and again and again...

  • POSTED BY shovwar on | September 15, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    This is not even a major tournament. It does not even count. SA have won a bigger tournament then this one in the past. Which is a 50 over tournament (real Cricket) not a hit n miss tournament. Yes the Mini World Cup in Dhaka. Now known as the champions trophy. T20 can be won by any of the 8 teams out there. The choke thing is over hyped just to sell it to the readers. Whoever plays better on the day will win. If SA dont they wont. There is nothing to choke about. Other teams lose too and even from the winning positions.

  • POSTED BY SameerA66 on | September 15, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    They have got the Chokers tag. Its not gonna remove.

  • POSTED BY binojpeter on | September 15, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    I am an Indian fan. But for some reason, I really wish SA win this competition and get over this tag.

  • POSTED BY peter4135 on | September 15, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    What's the point of all this...don't it.

  • POSTED BY on | September 15, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    South Africans may find another unique way of throwing themsleves out of a major competition.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY on | September 15, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    South Africans may find another unique way of throwing themsleves out of a major competition.

  • POSTED BY peter4135 on | September 15, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    What's the point of all this...don't it.

  • POSTED BY binojpeter on | September 15, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    I am an Indian fan. But for some reason, I really wish SA win this competition and get over this tag.

  • POSTED BY SameerA66 on | September 15, 2012, 15:14 GMT

    They have got the Chokers tag. Its not gonna remove.

  • POSTED BY shovwar on | September 15, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    This is not even a major tournament. It does not even count. SA have won a bigger tournament then this one in the past. Which is a 50 over tournament (real Cricket) not a hit n miss tournament. Yes the Mini World Cup in Dhaka. Now known as the champions trophy. T20 can be won by any of the 8 teams out there. The choke thing is over hyped just to sell it to the readers. Whoever plays better on the day will win. If SA dont they wont. There is nothing to choke about. Other teams lose too and even from the winning positions.

  • POSTED BY jabrankundi on | September 15, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    This is not news. Since time immemorial, sportsmen have been saying things like 'we won't repeat past mistakes', 'we will try to put in a better performance', 'we will not take any team easy'. It pains me to see such statements made news item again and again and again...

  • POSTED BY cheguramana on | September 15, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    I really do think SA are out of the 'choking zone'. After all, they beat Aus in Aus and took the No.1 Test ranking. They have just done it once again by beating Eng in Eng. From now on, its just going to be form and opportunity that counts. They really shud win a major ICC trophy : hope its the next time though, I hope India wins this particular WCT20 !

  • POSTED BY on | September 15, 2012, 16:23 GMT

    South Africans are one of the most talented teams in World Cricket. They might have choked on a few occasions. But sticking the label of chokers, EVERY time they lose is just not fair. More than the global cricket lovers, it is the scribes who had been trying to derive some kind of weird pleasure out of indiscriminate use of the choke word. It's just not right.

  • POSTED BY rajesh_sehwag on | September 15, 2012, 16:37 GMT

    Yes they are entitled chockers but beyond any doubt they are one of the few teams...other tha Nz,Aus...who always lighten up the big tourneys with stellar performances and ruthless advances on opposition.I am a big fan of proteas and their approach towards the game, their fitness and comradery.As "Cronje","Boucher","Smith" have hoped for their future gen to go all the way.....This is an INDIAN fan wishing them a good tourney.Let the games begin.....;)

  • POSTED BY tanveer131 on | September 15, 2012, 16:40 GMT

    Why this all about ODI's this is world T20