World Cup-winning coach and former Proteas batsman Gary Kirsten has described South Africa’s previous record of disaster at the tournament as being like a “mist” that has a ripple effect from team to team through the years.
Kirsten, who led India to a long-awaited World Cup triumph, on home soil, under immense pressure of expectation, in 2011, added he did not have any answers for what is surely a mental block for South African teams at the tournament.
“The World Cup comes around and it’s like a mist comes in and envelops our players. But we’ve exhausted the mental conversation, nobody knows why it keeps happening. They are all giving their best, so what are the answers? I don’t know the answers. With India it was a different vibe because they don’t have that mist of having underperformed at World Cups.
“For that team, there was no pressure from previous World Cups, nobody spoke about it and it wasn’t an issue. The only thing that will turn it around in World Cups for South Africa is to literally just turn it around at a tournament somewhere down the line. But no-one seems to know the answers in terms of how to do that,” Kirsten, whose triumph with India turned him into a national hero and elevated him to the status of one of the world’s leading coaches, said.
Kirsten, who was a top-order batsman for South Africa in the 1996, 1999 and 2003 World Cups, said the current Proteas were suffering the effect of inconsistent batting.
“We need to be realistic, when the team left South Africa it was with only a bit of hope of winning the tournament. I had a sense that the batting was a bit inconsistent, I think the pitches back home can play a role, they’ve been very up-and-down and that could have an effect on the consistency of the batsmen. We were always a bit light on the batting front, AB de Villiers would have made a big difference at four.
“But I was very excited about the bowling and I think they have bowled well, especially against New Zealand in what was a tough game. But we need to be honest, at this World Cup, we would not have been surprised beforehand if they did not make the playoffs. What’s been different is that they haven’t played well from the start. But I feel for everyone, I know the effort has been there. But that’s sport and sometimes there are teams whose performance you just can’t understand,” Kirsten said.