At a loss for words to explain South Africa`s dismal show in the ICC Champions Trophy semifinal against England, the team`s outgoing coach Gary Kirsten conceded that the Proteas choked yet again and a "dark mist" hangs over it in knock-out events.
"I`m sure you can imagine the word choke is trending on Twitter. It didn`t look like that to me, it looked like you were beaten by the better team. But how do you explain to South Africans that it hasn`t happened again in this match?" said the disappointed former India coach after side`s seven-wicket loss here yesterday.
South Africa were shot out for 175 in 38.4 overs by the English, who chased the target in 37.3 overs.
"I think it has happened again to be honest with ourselves. I think we did choke again. At the end of the day, it`s a word that we`ve become comfortable with. It`s an uncomfortable word, that we`ve become comfortable with, and you have to accept that that`s what it is," said Kirsten.
"So it`s a horrible word. It does get used. We`ve spoken about it; we`ve been up front about it as a team. We certainly let you are ourselves down today, no doubt," he added.
Kirsten said the players who tend to choke while turning up for the national side have produced exceptional performances with other teams.
"I don`t think as individuals they get emotionally hijacked. It`s rather, if they play for other teams, they play brilliant cricket. But then they come to South African cricket, there is this mist that hangs over the team and it`s going to require really tough individuals to try to overcome that," he explained.
"It`s definitely a dark mist that hangs over South African cricket in knock-out events. At some point we`re going to have to try to cross the line. It`s going to require some real charisma and some real batsmen to get over the line. It might not be pretty, but at some point we`re going to have to do it to get rid of this mess."
Kirsten, for whom it was his last assignment with the national team, said he wanted to take the side to the final at least.
"You know, to be blown away with the bat with the quality of batsmen we`ve got in our batting lineup, I suppose, is very disappointing from that perspective. It`s not something that you would expect," he said.
Quizzed constantly on South Africa`s poor record in the knockout events, Kirsten said the team is doing its best to figure out a way forward.
"I think if we had the secret recipe to turn it around, we`d certainly package it and be selling it. We certainly give it our best shot in our preparation. We try different things to go through and stuff like that. But, you know, it`s one of these things," he said.
"...I don`t know the answers to be honest with you. I can only tell you, yeah, we`ve given it our best shot to try to overcome it, and we haven`t. Whether it`s the semi-final, knock-out games, I don`t think it`s only been semi-finals," he added.
The former batsman said the Proteas also need to start looking beyond veterans such as all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
"...South African cricket has to move past Jacques Kallis. He`s been around for 20 years and been an incredible servant to the game, but we need to find other players and I think we have," he said.
Sharing the blame for the poor performance, Kirsten said he doesn`t know whether is leaving the team any better.
"I don`t know if I`ve left them in a better state because I certainly would have liked to have taken the team to at least the final, which I haven`t been able to do so.
"But did I leave the team in a better state? I don`t know. We certainly haven`t improved, and that`s where the question mark needs to come over me, so maybe it`s a good decision that I`m leaving. As a coach, you always want to take the team forward in some way. I think there are some good signs," he said.