“We play to win games of cricket to take glory home and make a difference in our nation’s heart and hope, and we didn’t do that. It hurts quite a bit. Gutted. We had our chances and didn’t take them,” said a teary-eyed AB De Villiers after losing the crucial semi-final to nothing but fate, yesterday. In what was truly a dream semi-final for cricket lovers across the globe, there was everything a cricket lover could ask for. The game was packed with drama from the very start, but ended in what was a bit of an anticlimax. Simply put, fate did not favour the Proteas. They did not lose the match, the Kiwis won it.
The Proteas have been lumbered with the perennial chokers tag in major tournaments, for their unmissable tendency to lose all knock-out matches of ICC tournaments. There was understandably then, a lot of talk about their almost jinxed record. De Villiers, however, was in no mood to look back, and the spell had indeed been broken, or so it seemed, when the Proteas defeated the Sri Lankans in the quarter final. A confident AB de Villiers said “We have a lot of confidence behind us. I feel the team is in a really good space at a really good time. We have a lot of reason to be confident… If we play to our full potential, no one is going to stop us in this tournament.”
The Proteas captain who until yesterday was beaming with aplomb, was reduced to tears after yesterday’s, almost cruel, turn of events that restored the tag of “chokers” onto the team. But frankly, yesterday was not a choke, it was a robbery.
In his part, AB de Villiers made no mistake, he smashed 65 runs off 45 balls, and became the leading South African run getter in World Cup tournaments with 1207 runs in 23 World Cup matches. Michael Vaughan tweeted, “Sit back wherever you are and just enjoy the greatness of AB de Villiers. This guy is a freak.”
However, as fate would have it, rain interrupted the game, and the Proteas who seemed to be targeting a score above 300 were, at once, reduced to 281 runs. The revised target for the Black Caps was 298 in 43 overs. What had once seemed like a match progressing overwhelmingly in favour of the Proteas, slipped from their hands and New Zealand eventually won the match according to the Duckworth Lewis method. This, in fact was the highest successful run chase ever in a world cup match, following which the Kiwis are now through to their first World Cup final ever.
AB de Villiers and his men were inconsolable, with many of them including the captain himself, breaking to tears. Yesterday’s match was not just another cricket match. In the words of the veteran player and former West Indies Captain, Brian Lara, the game was “a great show of compassion and camaraderie that left a sort of sad feeling for South Africa.”
Honestly, one couldn’t not have their hearts go out for the Proteas. It was far from a choke even though de Villiers gracefully said that the team paid for its own errors. “We had our chances especially in the second half of the game and we didn’t take them, so it’s difficult to say what kind of emotions I’m feeling. It’s obviously painful,” he said. The skipper had a chance to break the Elliott-Anderson partnership with a run out when, with Anderson nowhere near the crease, but he dropped the ball and removed the bails with his hand. “I tried my best to catch it but I didn’t. Life moves on. I didn’t take that unfortunately, but yes if you want to see it that way that I cost us then I’ll gladly take it,” he added.
While most are citing rain as the reason for this hard cheese, De Villiers ruled out using it as the excuse, even though his team lost seven crucial overs that could have taken the team to an arguably undefeatable target. “…I don’t think it played a big role in the game. We always talk about expecting the unexpected, and the unexpected happened today, and we adjusted as well as we could, and it wasn’t good enough at the end,” he said as he battled hard to steady his emotions, with each word creeping out painfully.
Grant Elliot too, has won many a praise for showing compassion to his fallen foe in a truly gentlemanly spirit which is characteristic of the Kiwis. After hitting the six which gave New Zealand a four-wicket win, Elliott first raised his arms in jubilation, then extended his hand in compassion to the man who bowled the final ball, Dale Steyn. “I felt quite sorry for him, quite sorry for the South African guys for losing the game. It could have been us, it could have been me sitting there having missed the last two balls, and I would have been pretty gutted as well, along with 40,000 people in the stadium”, he said.
All in all, it is not hard to imagine the bitter taste of this gallant defeat for the Proteas that was evident in their captain’s blank eyes. However, as has been already said, a lot of times since yesterday, De Villiers may have lost the game, but he certainly won the hearts of millions of cricket lovers across the globe. Don’t let this game bring you down, De Villiers, you are bigger than a tournament!
Image Source: The Viewspaper