When one talks about South Africa and the ICC Cricket World Cup, the word ‘chokers’ and misfortune are the first terms that come into the minds of cricket fans. In 1992, they were undone by the rain-rule against England in the semi-final. In 1999, the tie against Australia in the semi-final resulted in their elimination due to the net run-rate. In 2003, a misinterpretation of the Duckworth-Lewis method against Sri Lanka saw them exit the tournament in the league stages in front of their home fans. Add to the poor failures in 1996, 2007, 2011 and 2015 and South Africa have secured the tags of perennial underachievers in ICC events.
With South Africa starting the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup against hosts and current world number one ranked ODI side England, skipper Faf du Plessis has urged the team to just enjoy playing cricket. “In previous World Cups, we wanted to do Superman things. We thought we had to be more special, we had to do something more than we usually do, and we did not do what was good enough before. We haven't always got that right in the past, to play our best cricket at the World Cup, because we put so much pressure on ourselves. We want to just focus on enjoying our cricket,” du Plessis said.
This will be du Plessis’ third World Cup and in the current South Africa squad, there are seven players who were part of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup where they lost in heartbreaking circumstances to New Zealand in the semi-final at Auckland. The 34-year-old has stressed that the need to play freely will determine how successful they will be in the one month that they could be in England.
“I really believe it's an area (pressure) we can get better in. I've been there and I know the pressures, I understand how to deal with them. There's a reason why we want the guys to play freely - because we don't want them to have a fear of failure, which is what the World Cup is for some of them. Our success in England over the next couple of months depends on how well we release that aspect of our play - we need that for the team to be at our best. Each player needs to find out his own strengths,” du Plessis said.