Sports is not just about winning. Sports is about stories.
Winning is just a by-product.
Sports is about stories of conquests – conquering one’s inner demons maybe; it is about belief; it is about not giving up; and most importantly it is about earning respect.
South Africa lost the game on Tuesday, but won literally every thing else worth winning. If sports is a great leveller as people tout it to be, it is yet to level out all the bad luck it has consistently handed South Africa on key World Cup match days.
Forget the Brendon McCullum blitzkrieg or those fielding lapses, what really stole South Africa’s march was the rains. Once again, they seemed set and in a position where they could wrest the initiative from New Zealand. Two of their most destructive players – Faf and ABD – seemed primed to take the game away from New Zealand in the last ten overs.
ABDeVilliers, particularly, has been the most consistent ODI batsman of this generation capable of such audacious 360 degree stroke play, the he could have done probably more damage in the last 10 overs of the game than even McCullum managed to do in the first 10 overs of the New Zealand innings.
But then, there is no place for ‘What if’ in sports too.
Sometimes winners end up facing defeat. And on Tuesday, South African cricketers were winners in the true sense. Those who watched the match live, either at the stadium or even on their television sets, might never forget the incredible ground fielding South Africans exhibited in the last ten overs of the game especially. Anything hit on the ground was pounced upon. Not an inch was ceded.
Unfortunately a few critical fielding lapses, including something as simple as the wicket keeper allowing two easy byes in the last over and not striking the wickets, ended up raising the dreaded C-word again for the South Africans.
It was a disheartening sight to see champion cricketers like A.B.DeVilliers shed tears on the ground. The likes of ABD and Steyn truly deserve the best of the stage – like a WC final – to showcase their talent.
But that script is bound to change – the C-word will go from chokers to champions some day, and I will still be cheering for South Africa then. My second favourite cricket team after India.