Faf faces up to ‘çhokers’ tag

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It was inevitable. A bevy of Indian journalists looking for a juicy sound byte were sure to roll out the old “favourite”: South Africa choking in ICC events. Their failure to add to the 1998 ICC Knockout Trophy title – now the Champions Trophy – has led to the Proteas having to explain why that is the case at every subsequent ICC event.

But where perhaps there has been reluctance in the past to admit that they have a problem in dealing with the pressure and the effect that the “C word” has on them, the South Africans were refreshing in how they approached the unavoidable “bombs” lobbed at them upon arrival in Mumbai on Friday afternoon for the World T20.

First up was captain Faf du Plessis, who was forthright when asked whether he thought the chokers tag was unfair on his team. “It’s fair. Look, the only way you’ll ever get that monkey off your back is if you do win a trophy. I do think in T20 cricket, there’s not much time to even think about stuff like that. But one day when that changes will be the only time people will stop asking that question,” he said.

“So, for now, this team hasn’t been thinking about that at all, and we’re just trying to play some good cricket. The important thing for me in the build-up to this World Cup has been how this team has stood up and played well in real pressure moments, and that’s the only way you can get rid of it – to perform under pressure.

“That’s the two or five percent difference you get in a World Cup, just a little bit more pressure. Our preparation has been good, and then if it happens, hopefully we will have to stop answering that question.”

Box ticked.

Then it was the ever popular JP Duminy who had to face the music. Duminy is revered in India after many years of playing in the IPL, but he wasn’t going to be spared the “C word” question.

His answer took it a step further. “To be honest with you, we have spoken about it in the past and I think we have moved away from it. Looking at the last few ICC events, we lost to a better side (India in the semi-final) in the 2014 T20 World Cup. We lost in the 2015 World Cup (against New Zealand in the semi-final) in an unbelievable game of cricket – the amount of runs scored in that game, and I don’t necessarily think it was a choke,” the left-hander said.

“I just think we were outplayed by a better team in the end. There were moments in the game where we had opportunities to give ourselves a chance to win, and we unfortunately never took it. But that’s the nature of the game. You are not going to win every moment in the game, and I definitely think we are past that chokers tag.

“And we certainly don’t think about it. But from a general public point of view, I guess it is always going to be hanging over our head until we actually win an ICC event. But we’ve sort of put that to bed, and know that we have the squad here to give ourselves a good chance of winning this tournament.”

Could it be that the Proteas have faced their demons head-on? A “kop dokter” often says the first step to redemption is admitting that you have a problem. The Proteas have done that. Now it’s about making things right on the field, starting against England on March 18.

Before that, the South Africans will play an unofficial T20 game against India on Saturday (4pm SA time), with all 15 players in the squad allowed to participate. That will see left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso trying out his new adjusted bowling action for the first time after he passed tests last week following a suspected illegal action report in a recent franchise game for the Lions.

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

The chokers tag is “fair”, say the Proteas, but they have “moved past that” ahead of the ICC World T20 in India.

Original source: Faf faces up to ‘çhokers’ tag

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