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The South Africa cricket fan's mid-life crisis

Faf du Plessis looks up after edging one off Mohammad Amir to Sarfaraz Ahmed Getty Images

Something strange happens when you turn 40. According to conventional wisdom, you perform a stock-take of your achievements. It's an opportunity to note how far along you have progressed on your bucket list, a time to reflect about where you have reached, and where you are going.

This is potentially an unpleasant job. For some, it ends with having to explain the presence of a brand-new red Ferrari in the driveway, and why at least one of the children will not, unfortunately, be attending university.

Now, I would argue that if you can afford a red Ferrari in your early 40s, you have no business having a crisis of any sort. Life, it would seem, is treating you just fine. For the rest of us, however, the closest we will ever come to a red Ferrari is watching repeats of Magnum, P.I.. We are the ones who will spend much energy comparing what could have been to what is, dreams v reality.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, I recently celebrated my 44th birthday. No, there is no shiny sports car in the driveway, but I do drive a vehicle I like. The Hawaiian mansion Tom Selleck inhabited on our TV screens in the 1980s was never going to happen, but I can have no complaints about my lovely home. I have three perfect children and a wife I like, even if she does occasionally dress our sons in England football shirts.

Rather, it is the South Africa cricket team that is getting me down. This is not a criticism of their World Cup performance per se - anyone can have a bad day at the office, or even a rubbish month. It happens. It's the realisation that an unfulfilled dream of my youth, perhaps the last, will never come true.

Following any sports team can be a rollercoaster, and the South Africans are no different. It's not all been bad, and we must be fair, there have been some awesome times and some great victories and memories. One could even argue that on balance, the good times outweigh the bad. But each generation has its own relationship with its sporting teams, and for my contemporaries and I, we have now hit our sporting mid-life crisis.

Our relationship with South Africa's men's cricket team stems from a very special window in history. They came to life just as we were coming into adulthood, making it a relationship that's unique to my generation. The passion and excitement of those early days as our team came from nowhere to the very cusp of ultimate glory, fuelled our own dreams and aspirations as we forged our paths ahead. If they could achieve greatness, why not us?

And then we grew up. Whatever dreams we may have had as children, some were fulfilled, some not, some only in part. That's normal. Real-life experience would have readjusted our perspectives and expectations. But one dream was always a little different, a little special. It was innocent and pure. None of us knew what direction our lives would take, but there was never a question that one day we too would see our team take its turn on the World Cup winners' podium. Not even successive failures could subdue that cry of destiny. The disappointment of 1996, the horror of 1999, up to the last-over heartbreak of 2015, each failure may have lowered the volume a notch, but you could still hear it.

In 2019, the music died.

Of course, everything is still good. It's all about perspective. Things change. One fears that we are now on another cusp, and a prolonged period of mediocrity looms. The Australians, who barely a year ago were down in the dumps, look like world-beaters once again. It's not fun.

But nothing else in my life is the same as it was when I was 18, and I am all the better for it. Time for the 17-year-old who broke the furniture at seeing 22 needed off one ball, or the 24-year-old so broken by the 1999 Edgbaston disaster he sobbed into his pillow, to move on. The root is strong, despite almost 20 years away, and I will always follow my team. I will always care. But the South Africa of my youth is no more, and even if it was, I left a long time ago. My inner sports-fan needs to recalibrate himself and acknowledge what the rest of me knows to be true: the Ferrari isn't coming, and that's okay.

Asher Sevitz is a 44-year old South African expat, who never seemed to fully move on from his youth in Johannesburg. Now living in a cricketing desert, he spends his days in his office, with one eye on his work, another on ESPNcricinfo and his heart wherever the Proteas are playing.

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