Smith plays down ‘chokers’ tag
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter

Player:GC Smith, JH Kallis, Shahid Afridi
Event:ICC World Twenty20 2009

DateLine: 19th June 2009


When South Africa entered the semi-finals of the ICC T20 WC, they were primed as favourites, if not to win the championship, then at least to play the big final at Lord’s. But one thing has always been behind them and that is failing to win a big match syndrome.


Something similar unfolded at Trent Bridge against Pakistan but the script was such that it was a Pakistan win, more because of Pakistan’s audacious performance rather than a ‘choke’ by the Proteas at crucial stage. Hardly are the days when Shahid Afridi comes good with both the bat and ball but whenever the script is such, beating Pakistan on that day is as difficult as running a cart against a Tsunami.


It was one of those days when the all-rounder just snatched the game away from the favourites, first by some enthralling batting and then by taking a couple of important wickets. The wickets he took were that of Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers, probably the only two South African batsmen who can match a rising run-rate in the middle overs.


Finally South Africa lost the game. The question of choking at a big stage was again raised. But this time the skipper was ready with answers. At the end of the day, practice would have made him perfect by now. He would have had mirror practiced to answer this one a lot of times.


"Every time we lose an important game like this the word is going to be thrown around, it's around the team, and it was natural if we didn't win today people were going to raise that comment," he said. "This tournament is almost a knock-out from the word go. Maybe other teams choked in the Super Eights phase.


"It is Twenty20 cricket, you are playing against international opposition with quality players and sometimes you get beaten. Today we were beaten. That's the unfortunate thing, with the level we've played at throughout we probably deserve to be in the final but that's not the way it works and that's what makes the game so great. We were beaten by a great performance from Shahid Afridi and a Pakistan team that played better than us. That's something we've got to deal with."


Smith continued by saying that his side was beaten by a bunch of good bowlers. The skipper admitted that it is always difficult to bat second on the Trent Bridge wicket, especially because the wicket is by now a worn and torn one because of the continuous number of matches played on it.


"We were just beaten on the day by a better team. We gave 100%, we were nice and relaxed and we were beaten and that's the sad reality for us and we'll come back next time and give our best again."


"Playing spin, especially here at Trent Bridge has been difficult for a period of time and chasing here has been difficult," Smith said. "The wicket has got drier since the warm-up games and has taken more spin. It's a natural progression due to the amount cricket played on it and both teams knew what it would be like."


Such has been South Africa’s form off late that it wasn’t all that difficult to assume that if there would be one place where they would reach the big final, it would be here, but destiny had something else for them in store. Smith though was optimistic saying that though it would be difficult for him and the boys to get rid of this feeling, but they will be back at their best soon and some final would soon be there for the taking.


"It is really disappointing and it's a hard step to get over," Smith said, "but we've just got to keep playing with an open mind and hopefully that final will come along."


With Champions Trophy scheduled in South Africa this September, this chance for them to reach a big final is not a distant away. The only trouble though would be that both, the pressure and expectation in that tournament would be sky high considering they would again start off as one of the main favourites alongside being the hosts.


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