OPINION: SA and Cricket World Cup victory, never the twain shall meet?
Since it was first hosted in 1975, the Cricket World Cup has been held twelve times. South Africa, of course, missed the first four tournaments due to the sporting boycott imposed on the country because of apartheid, and only entered the fray in 1992, when the likes of Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald were introduced to the cricketing world. Kepler Wessels' men won many fans during the competition Down Under, but they didn't win the trophy, infamously knocked out in the semis by England, thanks in no small part to a ridiculous rain rule that was in play at the time.
South Africa has since competed in every other World Cup, and has infamously failed to win a thing. In fact, they've failed to improve on their efforts from their debut, having gone on to reach the semifinals three more times, in 1999, 2007 and, most recently, 2015. On all three occasions they were sent packing at the penultimate hurdle, twice by the side that went on to win the competition (Australia in 1999 & 2007).
In total, five teams have lifted the World Cup aloft: the West Indies, India, Australia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Coincidentally, and perhaps bizarrely, the same number have won the World T20.
I say bizarrely because the tournament is but an infant in comparison to the 50 over event, having made its debut in 2007 in South Africa. India was the first team to be crowned World T20 champions, and they were followed by Pakistan, England, the West Indies and Sri Lanka.
So, across the two 'World Cups', South Africa has competed in 13 tournaments, and won none of them, while six other teams have captured silverware, some more so than others. It makes for depressing reading given that realistically, only nine countries are expected to challenge for a title, the others not mentioned so far being New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Bangladesh.
Of course, whenever the Proteas are knocked out of a tournament, the invariable 'chokers' moniker is applied, but having a look back at their performances in the build-up to previous tournaments, in comparison to the eventual winners, the tag doesn't exactly ring true. I've had a look at each and every match they've played outside of World Cups (both formats) and, save for the glorious period they enjoyed ahead of the 1999 tournament, they didn't exactly set the world alight ahead of any others.
Starting with the 50 over World Cup, of the six that they've played, South Africa's winning percentage (WP) in the period between tournaments was better than that of the eventual champions on three occasions (1996, 1999, 2011), while their average WP since re-admission, excluding World Cup matches, stands at 62%. It's an above average mark, but not brilliant.
Winning percentage ahead of Cricket World Cups:
South Africa** Eventual Champions**
1992 - 1996 SA - 47%(QF) Sri Lanka - 42%
1996 - 1999 SA - 75% (SF) Australia - 51%
1999 - 2003 SA - 64% (Group Stage) Australia - 74%
2003 - 2007 SA - 58% (SF) Australia - 70%
2007 - 2011 SA - 68% (QF) India - 58%
2011 - 2015 SA - 57% (SF) Australia - 58%
Moving over to the World T20s, and the Proteas' record is markedly similar. They too had a better WP than the eventual champions on three occasions (2010, 2012, 2016) while their average WP stands at 57 percent. Granted, teams play far less T20s than they do ODIs, but it does make for interesting reading.
2005 - 2007 SA - 40% (Super 8s) India - 100%
2007 - 2009 SA - 63% (SF) Pakistan - 83%
2009 - 2010 SA - 50% (Super 8s) England - 40%
2010 - 2012 SA - 69% (Super 8s) West Indies - 42%
2012 - 2014 SA - 54% (SF) Sri Lanka - 67%
2014 - 2016 SA - 63% (Group Stage) West Indies - 50%
Of course, the facts are rather meaningless when the tournaments proper begin, especially when one considers how current WT20 champions the West Indies fared prior to their two successful title challenges. The men from the Caribbean did little recently to suggest that they could become the first team to win the event for a second time, and in the most thrilling fashion imaginable.
The West Indies have had their fair share of troubles in recent times, and there's no denying that they're a shadow of their former selves when it comes to the Test arena, so from a neutral's perspective it was wonderful to see them do so well. I can't recall a more electrifying finish to a tournament, and while their performances would definitely have attracted more fans from back home, it's the untapped markets which would hopefully have felt the biggest impact. Cricket fan or not, it would have been impossible to have not been left spellbound by Carlos Braithwaite's heroics in the final, where he hammered England bowler Ben Stokes for four successive sixes to secure his side the trophy with only two balls to spare. Sadly, we will now have to wait a lot longer until we get to see anything similar, as the International Cricket Council has decided to extend the period between World T20s from two to four years, meaning the next competition will only take place in Australia in 2020.
I'm thoroughly against the idea, as I think the format lends itself to be held on a more regular basis in comparison to the World Cup, in that it's short, sharp and largely entertaining. That said, as journalist Stuart Hess pointed out to me recently, perhaps the bigger window period will open the door for cricket's possible inclusion into the Olympics. The sport last made an appearance at the Games in 1904, and while there has been talk that it could return in 2024, more efforts like Braithwaite's could hasten the decision.
Derek Alberts is a sports anchor at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: _ @derekalberts1_