Yet another World Cup, and yet another instance of so near yet so far for the South Africans. AB de Villiers had stated in the run-up to the semis that the World Cup is theirs this time, and that no one can stop them. Alas, that hasn't been the case. For the fourth time, they went out in the semi-final round. 1992 was pure bad luck, in 1999, they couldn't hold their nerve under pressure. 2007 saw them facing a much-superior Australia outfit. This time, they had a great chance, with not many carrying the baggage of the past. However, in spite of impressing in the first half of the game, they couldn't finish off the job, and bowed out of the tournament in tears.
Looking at how things panned out during the last few overs of the chase, one wonders if the jinx of the past was playing on South African players' mind. It was as if they were always worried as to something going wrong in spite of the best efforts. What else can explain AB de Villiers, of all players, missing an easy run out, with the batsman yards out of the crease, or the collision in the outfield when Grant Elliott offered a catch in the penultimate over. Even an injured Dale Steyn bowling a length ball with five needed from two defied logic. Clearly, the lack of self belief came out jarringly in those tense moments.
Like the previous editions, South Africa would look back at the 2015 World Cup campaign as a lost opportunity, perhaps their best since 1999. At the same time, it must be said that South Africa lost to the better team in the final. On form, and under the conditions, it wasn't surprising that the Kiwis proved superior at Auckland. Also, it wasn't as if the Proteas had a flawless World Cup campaign. They had a few issues through the league stage, and it all came together to entangle them in misery during the semi-finals. Unlike in a league round, there are no second chances in a knockout, and South Africa's weak links stood exposed at Auckland.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that a couple of seniors let South Africa down in the World Cup. At the top of the order, Hashim Amla got a hundred in one of the league matches, but he was a failure in all the games that mattered. He did not score many against India, Pakistan and in the semis against New Zealand as well. Also, Steyn was supposed to be the leader of the attack, but he spent the tournament finding his range. Steyn was far from the threat he was expected to be at the World Cup, and that made the team's bowling vulnerable. Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott covered up for him diligently, but it wasn't enough.
South Africa's losses to India and Pakistan in the league stage was an early indication of the fact that teams could exploit loopholes in the Proteas. Throughout the event, South Africa were heavily dependent on their skipper de Villiers to deliver. On the couple of occasions he failed, the team faltered. Faf du Plessis was the only other batsman to display some sort of consistency. With Amla already struggling, lack of runs from Quinton de Kock only made matters worse for the Proteas. Then, there was the problem with the fifth bowler as well. AB was right, "South Africa aren't as good as they think they are."
--By A Cricket Analyst