World T20 2014

No secret to ending choke jokes for SA

Firdose Moonda

March 16, 2014

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Imran Tahir picked up two wickets in an economical spell, South Africa v Australia, 3rd T20, Centurion, March 14, 2014
Strike bowler: Faf du Plessis wants Imran Tahir to only concern himself with taking wickets © AFP

After 22 years, six World Cups, four World T20s and an uncountable number of jokes about the choke, South Africa have stopped searching for an elixir. They have decided the way to approach major tournaments is with the best team they can muster and an understanding of the basic principles of winning and losing.

"There's nothing magical that you can do to win a World Cup," Faf du Plessis said at the team's arrival in Bangladesh. "It's a tournament where you need guys in form and if you have that, you give yourselves a great opportunity to compete. If you can play good cricket during the build up and get to the semis, once you are there, it's just about playing the game. There is nothing different about it. If you don't play to your full potential you are going to get beaten."


Or not.

For a start South Africa have not played enough T20 cricket to know who is in form and who is not. Only one match in their three-game series against Australia took place in full. Another was washed out and a third condensed to a seven-over shootout. "I would have liked to have played some more T20 cricket," du Plessis admitted. Chances are, apart from West Indies and England, every other team feels the same way.

What South Africa do have is a relatively recent strong record on the subcontinent. Last August they beat Sri Lanka in a T20 series on the island and last November they were victorious over Pakistan in the UAE. Both teams had players with the kind of magic fingers that du Plessis thinks will decide this tournament: spinners. That South Africa were successful is a tick in the form column for du Plessis. "We've proven that we can play in these conditions against quality spin," he said. "This tournament is going to be won and lost with spinners."

What South Africa do not have is a reputation for being blessed with exactly that: spinners. But stereotypes date and South African cupboard has started to fill-up in that department. They have three spinners in their squad this time, each offering something different.

The legspinner, Imran Tahir, is the player du Plessis thinks will make the biggest impact and the captain has given him a licence to kill. "He is a guy who takes wickets. It's not required of him to go at two, three or four runs an over. He gets wickets," he said. "Also, we've got JP Duminy who has been bowling very well as a back-up spinner."

Duminy's part-time offspin is fast becoming not so part-time and he has proved an important partnership breaker in the last few months. Left-armer Aaron Phangiso did not get a mention from du Plessis but he is also in the squad, giving South Africa the kind of options teams want when they head into a competition.

Having a slew of spinners alone is not going to win anyone anything, so du Plessis was quick to point out South Africa also have all the other departments covered. "When it comes to Bangladesh, it's not always just spin. The conditions allow for fast bowling as well and we've got a really good bowling attack when it comes to the fast bowlers.

"In our whole batting line-up, we've got destructive hitters. AB de Villiers has proven so many times how destructive he can be. So has David Miller. And then other guys, like Hashim Amla he goes under the radar but he is a high quality batsman. We've got a long batting line-up."

South Africa have got "ourselves covered," just as they have had in the past. The only thing missing is the amnesia to forget the dreaded c-word that keeps popping up and will pop up throughout South Africa's stay at in the tournament and be brought out no matter how far they get.

Du Plessis says they do not need it. He may be right given how captains of the past of dealt with it. Graeme Smith turned it into an expletive of sorts, bristling every time the first syllable was mentioned and glaring so hard at the utterer the person was likely to choke before the whole word came out. That did not work. De Villiers tried reverse psychology with it by embracing the word and saying it as many times in one sentence as he could. That also did not work.

So du Plessis is treating it like any other word. The same as win, lose, champions and losers. All of them are loaded with connotations but du Plessis wants to see only the logic hidden underneath. "You can look at it any way you want but for me, we need to be playing our best cricket. If we arrive on the day and we don't we should get beaten and that goes for every team," he said.

"When it comes to choking, for me it's simple. You need to make sure you give yourself the best opportunity to do well and if you don't and you get beaten on the day, as long as the other team played better cricket, I can accept that." If that happens, he'll hope the rest of South Africa can too.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by SHER-A-PANJAB on (March 19, 2014, 0:02 GMT)

Du PLESIS ....looks very positive to steal the show by his captain ship .He has fare attitude to go along with player as a friend .That is why he is ahead than AB And Smith ......good luck

Posted by HennopsRiverEnd on (March 18, 2014, 10:16 GMT)

The team and batting order should be looking like this: 1.deKock 2.duPlessis 3.deVilliers 4.Miller 5.Rossouw (Not in squad so Behardien) 6.Morkel 7.Duminy 8.vdMerwe (Not in squad so Phangiso) 9.Steyn 10.Morkel 11.Tahir

"Saving" AB & Miller does not make sense at all. What are you trying to save for when there are only 120balls!?!

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (March 18, 2014, 5:33 GMT)

If we don't start using our big hitters at the top of the order, then we cant expect victory. Hash needs to come in at 4 or 5 when the spinners will be operating. De Kock and Miller need to opening. AB must come in at 3.

Posted by Sathesh_Krishnan on (March 18, 2014, 3:13 GMT)

Its visible to all fans and supporters that SA have necessary fire power to win the trophy but arent ready to utilize it. AB and Miller are the best players they have in this format and to bring them low down the order for slogging after 15 overs doesnt make any sense. In T20 cricket, your batsmen need to play as many overs as possible to give them time to settle and explode later on. Idea of slotting in JP before AB or Miller or in between AB and Miller doesnt make any sense. JP cannot win matches on his own where as the other two can. SA need to understand this fact and give chances to their impact players accordingly. Albie also can be tried up the order. He has scored 70+ scores in IPL1 for CSK by coming one down. SA should try something of that sort. In short they should be more aggressive than being defensive. By allowing Amla and JP to bat 10 overs and keeping AB and Miller doesnt make any sense.SA should understand that.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2014, 15:07 GMT)

With the ball spinning,amla and de villiers have greater responsibility

Posted by class9ryan on (March 17, 2014, 13:19 GMT)

Success of South Africa will be directly proportional to the way Big Hash plays. South Africa want him to give them a platform till the 13-14th over after which they let de Villiers - David Miller combo unleash themselves. But I am worried if the pitches turn like they did in Afgahnistan-Bangladesh game, do South Africa stand a chance ???

Posted by Big3BOSS on (March 17, 2014, 13:11 GMT)

Somehow i got a feeling SA will win this one..............despite their history..............Ideally I want India to win it for obvious reasons...but I feel this is SA tournament......despite all odds

Posted by Testcricketistop on (March 17, 2014, 12:29 GMT)

Only one way SA must play T20.

Pick six big hitters and 5 bowlers.

Then go out there, smack the ball silly, and bowl aggressively, if it doesn't work, tough luck.

Nothing else we have done has brought a trophy, we might as well just go guns blazing.

Posted by creebo777 on (March 17, 2014, 11:48 GMT)

Lets not use the word choke as an excuse if we don't win the t20 world cup its a tough competition, tactics has to be right ,our coach and selectors should be blame look at the last t20 world cup the type of players they picked

Posted by stormy16 on (March 17, 2014, 9:46 GMT)

On paper SA should beat any team in any version on talent as they simply have all bases covered. They have had a few panic moments in big games but the fact is they are a wuality side. Its easy to start focusing on a million things and I am glad Faf is not getting in to that debate. The simple plan for SA should be to win most games on the batting of AB and Miller. If either of these two bat for any lenght of time they will take the game away but for some reason SA keep pushing these two around in the batting order. They should bat at $3 and #4 and Faf should open or bat at #5. Finally they have called up Albie and lets face it he is not going to win you a game with the ball so give him a chance to bat. There is no point in Berhadin and JP being in the middle with Albie waiting for his turn! They must give him the chance to make an impact and if he fails JP and co can add some respectability to the score. In short SA have all the guns - but dont want to use them!

Posted by   on (March 17, 2014, 9:11 GMT)

SA have good batting and bowling line up I think they lack in top order hashim amla is a world class batsman but he will not make quick runs he is struggling to get going if he got out within 6 overs den run rate will be slow down spinners will have much effect in bang if top order fails definitely runs slow down if dey get to a good start dey will ppst a huge total with the wickets de villiers will go wild nd post a huge total I'm guessing SA will choke again

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 17, 2014, 9:10 GMT)

@ dunger.bob. Spot on observation about SA's batting selections. This is hit & giggle, & much as I love him. the Mighty Hash is just not the giggling type….

AB is a really explosive hitter H has the 2nd highest SR in and IPL innings (min 30 runs I think,) and that way just one run behind Albie Morkel's record. Yep. would you believe that they have the highest IPL SRs? And Faf was not opening for CSK because Dhoni had no one else!

Sa's problems have been continuity of selection, a settled batting order, and captaincy.

Posted by ThreePIllarTales on (March 17, 2014, 8:58 GMT)

Safas have no chance.. not enuf big hitters down the order. Amla ??? LOL Yes gorgeous cover drive every two or three overs instead of... It will be a battle of spinners outwitting sloggers... quicks are there to york or bounce. WI, India unless the big three SL lads put in a huge screamer every match with Aus and Pakis outside chances. NZ cannot rely on big Mac alone and they cannot do spin. As an ozzy, I'd love George Bailey to bring it home but I highly doubt it. I do hope one of the minnows like Ireland or Afghanistan make the semis...

Posted by bouncer709 on (March 17, 2014, 8:33 GMT)

I don't see any chance for SA to make into Semi Final, they will be out in first round.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (March 17, 2014, 8:05 GMT)

When Faff and Domingo, consistently keep selecting the wrong batting order - expect only miracles to bring success.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 17, 2014, 8:04 GMT)

@ Srilanka-rules. SA were scheduled to play a 3 test series in Sri Lanka in 2013. Sri Lanka cancelled the tests. Incase you missed that, let me help you:SRI LANKS CANCELLED THE TESTS!

South Africa were ready, willing and able to tour, but Sri Lanka ran away from playing any tests, because Sri Lankans can't play quick bowling. They are scared of Steyn and Morkel because they can only play on dead tracks.

Please also note that South Africa have won a test series in Sri Lanka. SL, on their last tour to SA, won their first match in SA, & have never won a series there. Out of a total of 20 tests between SA & SL, SA have won 10, & SL have won 5. SA dominate SL, despite their "sane" captains.

There is a very good reason that SA are #1 in the test rankings, with a rating of 129, and SL are #6, with a miserable rating go just 89 points, & that is because SA CAN dominate the rankings. SL have NEVER been #1 in tests. In tests, SL rules nothing, just 2 points ahead of WI & NZ. A test joke

Posted by   on (March 17, 2014, 7:54 GMT)

It seems srilanaka have won somthing.....everybody is out to say something. :p

Posted by ViratDevilliersFan on (March 17, 2014, 7:48 GMT)

come on saffers . u r my 2nd fav team after India .. i would like to see u guys in semi final ..come on boyss u gotta do it.. looking at the first two matches every team must be looking towards their spinners..only India,wi,pak and to some extent sl (lack big hitters) are the favs... dnt say aussies are favourites coz spin gonna do them all good as it is subcontinent not adelaide get ready to face doosras of ashwin,ajmal,mishra & co.. welcome to subcontinent...

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 17, 2014, 7:34 GMT)

South Africa is a conservative cricket country, or so it seems at least. I don't think DuPlessis, De Villiers or Amla should be playing T20. They are damn fine in longer formats but duds in T20. It's all about explosive hitting all the way down the list. Losing 3 wickets in the first 5-6 overs shouldn't matter too much if you've got a power-packed batting list. .. South Africa is going about the wrong way with their batting imo. It almost doesn't matter what the bowlers do because the batting is just so wrong. .

Posted by Daryll111 on (March 17, 2014, 7:16 GMT)

@Srilanka-rules - I'm not sure where you got your info from, but SA toured Srilanka last year and in 2012. They have won 3 out of the 4 matches against Srilanka in Srilanka? As for the green pitches, this has been disproved over all formats. South Africa has had a reputation as the best travelling team for some time now. Actually I think there record is better on the road then at home. Their major issue seems to be loosing to team who outplay them on the big occasion.

Posted by brainZA on (March 17, 2014, 7:08 GMT)

@Srilanka-rules "Besides, that's reason they won't tour Srilanka, since their humiliating loss in 2006." This is incorrect, South Africa toured Sri Lanka in 2013. See

Posted by applethief on (March 17, 2014, 7:06 GMT)

It's T20 - it's a crapshoot every time. Just because whenever South Africa are on the short end of things, we end up up throwing "choke" around, but the reality is that just about every other team "chokes" far worse than South Africa in this format. I challenge anyone to find an example of a full member side not messing up a T20 that they should have hands-down won. It's a lottery Faf, don't even bother getting worked up about it.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2014, 7:01 GMT)

@Srilanka-rules, what I laugh about teams like Sri Lanka, is they are living off one result, and the rest of the time they get beaten by everyone. Is Sri Lanka the England football team of cricket?

Posted by gibbs.175 on (March 17, 2014, 5:52 GMT)

I m sure ,Du PLESIS can make some difference in the side by his good captain ship .Because he is very positive person and player .he knows how he can use his team strength against different teams . He is very interested to bring the young talented players in the side ,to make mixture with senior and experienced players ,,,,,that is why he has a formula to win the title for RSA .......Good Luck ....! Let s see ....

Posted by sherishahmir on (March 17, 2014, 5:27 GMT)

SA is one of the v best side of T20 format too and despite their recent lost of series against Australia still they are one of the favorite to lift the T20 title as they recently beaten SriLanka and Pakistan in that format in similar conditions. SAs needs to resolve the mental toughness where they choked most of times, despite they got every resource to win from any situation. In my opinion, most probably either SA, Aus, Pak, India or lankans r favorites to win this T20 title provided no upset happen in time to come.

Posted by Srilanka-rules on (March 17, 2014, 5:17 GMT)

And probably it will never end. They can only play in green pitches, where assistance for bowlers are there. To win Odi's and T20s, a team required spinners and batsmen who can play spin well. South Africa lacks in both departments and hence there is less chance for them to win tournaments. And the whole world knows they can't play spin like England. Besides, that's reason they won't tour Srilanka, since their humiliating loss in 2006.

And temperamentally, they are weak. It was obvious from recent concluded series with Aus. They were scared of Johnson, so that they've prepared flat pitches to counter him and by doing so, limiting their own bowling chances. A sane captain of the likes of Jayawardene or Sangakkara would have done a world of good in SA cricket rather than tactically limited Smith and over-burdened AB

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Tournament Results
India v Sri Lanka at Dhaka - Apr 6, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 6 wickets (with 13 balls remaining)
India v South Africa at Dhaka - Apr 4, 2014
India won by 6 wickets (with 5 balls remaining)
Sri Lanka v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 3, 2014
Sri Lanka won by 27 runs (D/L method)
Pakistan v West Indies at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
West Indies won by 84 runs
Bangladesh v Australia at Dhaka - Apr 1, 2014
Australia won by 7 wickets (with 15 balls remaining)
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