Johannesburg [South Africa] (ANI): Former skipper Graeme Smith advised the South African team to deal with the ‘chokers’ tag and play fearless cricket as they prepare themselves for the upcoming Champions Trophy to be held in June in England. South Africa have carried the burden of the tag since the memorable semi-final of the 1999 World Cup that ended in a tie against Australia, allowing them to sneak into the final. In 2003, the Proteas famously misread the Duckworth-Lewis equation in a rain-affected game and failed to make the knockout stages. Smith’s team was beaten handily by Australia in the semi-finals in 2007 and failed to chase down a modest total against New Zealand in the quarter-final in Dhaka in 2011.
In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Smith said it is a very unfortunate reality for all South African players that the ‘tag’ accompanies them at any tournament. “It’s been nearly two decades since South Africa have won a major one-day tournament, and the question of just why that is gets thrown at you a hundred times in every press conference you do,” he said. “The players will have to deal with that, and remind themselves that they were not far away in 2015,” he added. And in 2015, the AB de Villiers-led side lost to New Zealand in the semi-finals.
“This is a side that fans love to watch, with some of the best players in the world and it may well be that bit of luck that will get them over the line,” he said. The left-handed batsman, who captained South Africa in 109 Tests, 149 ODIs and 27 T20Is, further asserted that the current ODI team won’t be fearing any side on ability but unless they get win in a major ICC event, they would find it tough to avoid the tags that are put on them.
“This isn’t the first group of South African players to enter a tournament with that question over their head, but they couldn’t hope for a better build-up in terms of going in to June with confidence high in the camp,” he said.
South Africa will begin their Champions Trophy campaign on June 3 against Sri Lanka.