Cricket

Klusener on the two World Cup heartbreaks

In this iconic picture from the 1999 World Cup semifinal, South Africa's Allan Donald walks away after being run out while going for the winning run against Australia. Though the match was tied, Australia went through after finishing higher in the Super Six table. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images  

The drama at the finish symbolised the explosive nature of the contest. The men in yellow leapt for joy. The two cricketers in green appeared shell-shocked following a chaotic attempt at a failed single.

Rewind to the pulsating semifinal of the 1999 ICC ODI World Cup, in Birmingham, and we arrive at the point from where the South Africans were labelled ‘chokers’. It’s a tag that continues to stay.

Lance Klusener comprehends the pain well. For in two of those gut-wrenching World Cup games — in 1999 and 2003 — he was in the middle.

The former dynamic pace bowling all-rounder, who was in the city recently, shared his thoughts with The Hindu on South Africa’s failure to win major tournaments.

In that fateful match at Edgbaston, South Africa needed nine off the last over from Australia paceman Damien Fleming.

The left-handed Klusener smashed the first two deliveries for boundaries. South Africa, chasing 214, required only one from four deliveries with last man Allan Donald partnering Klusener.

Steve Waugh brought his fielders in to prevent a single. In the event of a tie, Australia would go through to the final because of a superior run-rate.

Over to Klusener: “I said to Allan, ideally I would like to hit another boundary and seal it that way. But I also said that if we could get a single somewhere we should take it as well. I could not score off the third.

“Off the fourth, it looked like a single to me, the ball went past the bowler. But Allan [watching the ball] had to turn before starting to run.”

He added, “I had the best seat in the house to judge the run. Unfortunately there was a lot of noise. And with Allan’s back turned the other side, he didn’t really hear the call. I guess we all know what happened afterwards. People might say we should have waited for the next two balls. Who’s to say the next delivery would not have been a great yorker from Fleming. That’s sports. There are no guarantees.”

Then there was the catastrophic league game against Sri Lanka at Durban in the 2003. In a rain-affected contest, South Africa was 229 for six, a par score according to the Duckworth and Lewis method, when the match ended. Actually, the host required to score a run more than the par score to win and progress to the next stage.

The 44-year-old recalled “I was batting and it was just unfortunate. The message we got was if we didn’t lose a wicket in that over, we would go through on Duckworth and Lewis. We tied the game but lost out on a technicality.”

The man, fondly called ‘Zulu’ in his playing days, said, “The Duckworth Lewis gives you the par score for a tie. It was interpreted as that what was needed to win. We didn’t read that well.

“If you go back and look at the final ball that Mark Boucher faced from Muttiah Muralitharan, he kind of tucked it into square-leg. If we wanted to run, we could have got a run quite easily. We didn’t run because there was no need to risk a wicket. It cost us.

“I don’t think Sri Lanka knew it either since their fielders were quite deep, and not really protecting a single.”

More upsetting

The fact that the ‘mishap’ happened at home was even more upsetting for Klusener. “First of all, as a batting partnership, we did not get the correct information. That was frustrating because if we had got the correct information, we could have done something about it. In these matches where teams are evenly matched, it is the small things that make a big difference.”

Did he agree with the ‘Chokers’ tag? “It’s easy to place that tag because we haven’t won a big one. But, unfortunately, we will have to deal with that till we win an ICC World Cup. But if you look back, you can’t say the tag doesn’t fit us because it does. We need to play those big moments better, have our players taking more responsibility. Maybe our preparation to tournament cricket needs to be looked at.”

Honest words indeed.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 12:55:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/Klusener-on-the-two-World-Cup-heartbreaks/article14380551.ece

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