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The tag of 'chokers' remains on SA's back

Monday, January 17, 2022
Subhash Rajta

Wayne Parnell couldn’t believe his eyes. He stood his ground for what appeared like an eternity, biting the strap of his helmet, perhaps trying to figure out if he wasn’t dreaming. The packed Wanderers looked the same — stunned and shell shocked. What they had seen transpiring appeared too fantastic to be true.

Ecstasy and despair: The Indians are overjoyed and Parnell is stunned in disbelief. © AFP

They were perhaps jolted out of their state of disbelief by the wild and exuberant Indian celebration. Yuvraj Singh took off in an Usain Bolt fashion the moment he realised he had plucked victory from thin air, and stopped only when he was brought down by his own delirious teammates rugby-style.

The scenes of both joy and despair may look a bit exaggerated from a more objective point of view. This was, after all, no World Cup final or no big tournament.

That it still stirred emotions so violently showed how dramatically the game changed its course. Who could have imagined South Africa not winning the contest with just 38 more runs to get from 18 overs with six wickets in hand, and that, too, on a wicket playing true. And when Parnell, after keeping everyone oscillating between hope and despair, found Yuvraj gobbling him up at point, emotions ran wild.

What must have accentuated the grief of South Africa and their fans is the knowledge that this defeat would again bring back the tag they hate the most — chokers. Ironically, it was at the same stadium that they put in their best effort in that “best game ever” against Australia to bury the unwanted tag for once and all.

“It’s something that will always follow them, whether the opposition says it or not. It’s like us losing the tri-series finals. But that’s one thing that will always haunt them, and you just can’t run away from it,” said M.S. Dhoni.

South Africa put down the loss to some bad decisions with the bat. Graeme Smith, who waged a lone battle with 77, looked gutted and enraged at the loss. “Perhaps we needed to be more solid, instead of looking for glory,” he said, referring to poor strokes some of his batsmen played at a time when caution would have seen them home.

India would not mind that in the least. Yes, they did have some luck — Johan Botha would be one of the very players to be declared lbw without the ball hitting the pads — and the opposition choked under pressure, but there can’t be any praise high enough for the bowlers for how they fought from a near hopeless situation.

Just like they did in the Durban Test, they have brought the team back from the dead. From here on, however, India will need a more all-round effort if they have to win the series. The win was a miracle, and miracles don’t happen everyday.

HT Content & Syndication Services