South Africans looking to shake the underperformers tag
Cricket legend Mike Hussey believes South Africa’s mental demons may be playing on their mind ahead of their World Cup semi final clash with Australia.
A pair of defeats at the hands of Australia in the 1999 World Cup gave South Africa a tag of underperforming in big games which has proven difficult to shake, with the team also exiting the 2007 and 2015 tournaments at the penultimate stage.
Drawing on his past experiences in the Proteas’ inner sanctum, Hussey told Sports Breakfast the issue would be difficult to ignore.
“I was fortunate enough to do some work with South Africa in the 2015 World Cup. South Africa were playing some awesome cricket,” Hussey said.
“The semi final was against New Zealand at Eden Park, and I remember sitting in the team meeting and I was just blown away because they played a video, the night before the game, looking at the New Zealand All Blacks and how they dealt with choking. I could not believe we were talking about how to deal with choking the night before a semi final.
“It was an unbelievable game and New Zealand just got over the line to get through to the World Cup final, but I was just flabbergasted we were focusing on the choking side of things.
“I don’t know about this current team, I’m obviously not in the inner sanctum, I don’t know what they talk about, but certainly in 2015, they were getting asked about it in every single press conference and they tried to deal with it as a team.”
Cyclonic conditions are forecast in Kolkata where the game will take place, with the rules allowing for a reserve day and South Africa progressing if the match is washed out due to finishing higher on the competition’s ladder.
With Glenn Maxwell set to take his place after being rested for the final group game following his record-breaking double century against Afghanistan, debate has raged over whether a shortened game would better suit big hitter Marcus Stoinis or accumulator Marnus Labuschagne, but Hussey said the brain trust should not fall into the trap of overpredicting the weather.
“I think you’ve just got to try and pick your best team,” he said.
“I’m sure they’ll discuss all the different options. It’s a tough call either way.
“I’d probably lean towards leaving Stoinis out. I think Marnus Labuschagne has played pretty well throughout the tournament and I think there’s enough bowling there, particularly with Maxwell back, Mitch Marsh can bowl a few overs, I think Travis Head can help out.”
Hussey, who works with Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League as a batting coach on top of extensive playing experience on the subcontinent, said inclement weather at this time of year was not unusual.
“I think you can get some pretty big showers at this time of year, but they seem to move through reasonably quickly,” he said.
“I think they’ve got covers there that cover the whole ground. As long as it doesn’t persist too much, they should be able to get a game in.
“That’s where the toss might favour the team that does decide to field first.”
The Cricket World Cup semi final between Australia and South Africa gets underway at 4:30pm WA time tomorrow.
IMAGE: Sporting News