Is South Africa a choker team in Cricket?- A statistical & historical perspective

Mac: "SA had the game in the bag and they....choked. There, I have said it." [1]

Here is a thing about South Africa. They are the so-called “archetypal [2] choker team in the sport of Cricket” [3].

In simpler terms, they tend to lose their matches from a stage where even Bangladesh can’t lose against Australia. If there is one cricket team in this world which shows you the value of completing the formalities (including redundant paperwork) it is South Africa. You never know, you might just choke!

The semifinal match between Australia and South Africa of 1999 Cricket World Cup is still vivid in the memories of every cricket follower. Everyone, came up their explanations and own versions of “holding on to the nerves”.

One person was singled out; Herschelle Gibbs, who dropped Steve Waugh and “dropped the World Cup”. As it is with history, it keeps on repeating itself; it followed that after 3 years Herschelle Gibbs took a decision which helped India qualifying to the final of 2002 ICC Champions Trophy.

After scoring a brilliant century, he retired hurt with his side still needing 70 runs for victory; SA-192/1 and required rate well under control. Eventually, it was few out of the skin deliveries by
Sehwag (Man of the Match) coupled with immature performance by South Africa which led to the famous 10 run victory. Yes, it did cost them the Cup; India eventually was declared joint winner along with Sri Lanka because of the incessant rain.

This is just one side of the story. If we consider statistics, South Africa is not the only team which has lost dinner from its claws. When you count the no. of times a side has lost by less than (or equal to) 3 runs [4], South Africa equals Australia with 6 such instances. Ironically, England Cricket Team touted as the best team after defeating “Australia in their own turf” in the recently concluded 2010-11 Ashes series has lost on 11 occasions by less than or equal to 3 runs. In addition to that, India’s count is no better. In fact it is 9, higher than South Africa, statistics can be misleading!

At this point of time, cricket gurus and self-proclaimed “experts on everything under the sun” would jump to point me that I haven’t considered smallest margin of victory “by wickets”. Ok, I did that also [5] without any change in inference. England, South Africa and India have lost 3 matches each by 1 wicket. However, Australia has lost on 5 such occasions. So, do we conclude that Australia is the choker in cricket? NO, Statistics is just a tool. It is only the means it cannot be the ends.

Speaking more about statistics, “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital” - Aaron Levenstein. Hmm! Coming back to cricket, Team India have given the weekend- partying- crowd another reason to splurge, dine and wine out. Cricket truly has a secular fervor.

PS: I have 3-4 important tasks, but I had to prioritize this post way above them ;)

PS: I am happy for Indian Cricket Team; they have finally gained the traction of winning matches away from home. Screw, you Critics!

PS: Finally, updated the blog after such a long time.






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