Rainbow nation on cloud nine

167

If there’s one place that you’d like to spend this weekend it ought to be Cape Town in South Africa. The Rainbow Nation is on cloud nine after experiencing something that they had never experienced before – entering a World Cup final.

Since their readmission to cricket after the fall of apartheid in 1991, South Africa’s men’s teams have entered multiple world cups as favourites only for the team to blow it up, often in the knockouts, having dominated the group stages. A dropped catch, a controversial selection, rain, miscalculation of laws have all hurt the Proteas but more so than anything, if they have done one thing consistently that is to choke. It’s true that the South African women can not be accused of choking like the men, but the fact remains that this is South Africa’s first ever World Cup final. All South Africans whether they are in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Sydney or London will celebrate this moment like never before.

Senior cricket writer Telford Vice; who’s covered the Proteas since their readmission to cricket in 1991 summed it up all with a tweet. “I refuse to believe any South Africa team have ever played a better game of cricket than what we’ve seen at Newlands tonight.”

South Africa’s men’s Test team has fared much better having won series in Australia, England and India since readmission showing remarkable consistency. It is when it comes to knockout games in white ball format that they lose the plot. You feel for South Africa for as a nation that it has endured many hardships since the transfer of power in 1994.

Not all leaders have been as considerate or magnanimous like Nelson Mandela.

Due to their short sighted policies, unemployment has mushroomed, inflation has been a problem while the crime rate is a real concern despite the country being a popular tourist destination.

There’s been a mass exodus of white farmers as well to places like New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

The quota system introduced in sports has driven away some of the finest white talents and you may have witnessed them in the form of Kevin Pietersen, Glenn Philips and Marnus Labuschagne. Even those who go onto represent South Africa opt for Kolpak deals despite a promising international careers because your opportunities are limited due to your colour. Marchant de Langa, Duanne Olivier and Kyle Abbott are just a few names that come to mind.

For a nation that has had not many cricketing reasons to celebrate in recent times, this World Cup has been huge.

Tazmin Brits has become the cynosure of all eyes. She top scored with 68 runs in 56 balls in helping South Africa to set England a target of 165. Then she took four catches during England’s innings, a world record equaling effort.

Brits a late developer was 27 when she made her international debut for South Africa. Fate took her to cricket. She was a gold medalist in javelin throw at the World Youth Athletics Championship

in 2017 at the age of 16. She was one of South Africa’s biggest hopes at London Olympics in 2012. But before that she’s involved in a car crash that leaves her with a broken pelvis and dislocated hip. She reinvents herself in cricket and now has put South Africa in their first ever World Cup final. Such heroes need to be celebrated for not giving up on their sporting ambitions despite life throwing many obstacles.

Like they tend to do it before many big events, South Africa nearly blew it this time too axing their captain Dane van Niekerk for failing the two kilometer run just before the World Cup. Dane van Niekerk isn’t just the South African skipper but a global super star having guided Oval Invincibles to back to back titles at The Hundred.

They started off the campaign on horrendous fashion losing the curtain-raiser to Sri Lanka. But since then, they raised the game remarkably well first through some brilliant individual efforts and then with some collective performances. It doesn’t get better than beating England in the semis.

England had cruised to the knockout stage having won all their four games and in their last first round game against Pakistan when they posted 213 for five, they looked to be peaking at the right time. But South Africa were simply brilliant. A target of 165 was slightly above par but you expected England to chase this down possessing such a formidable batting unit. But South Africa proved that they possess the best bowling unit in the competition. Well, that claim can be contested in the final. But what can not be contested is that the South Africans have the best fielding unit in the world. Thanks for taking us to Jonty Rhodes era Tazmin Brits.

Most of the cricketing world will be behind South Africa on Sunday. Not many want the Aussies to win. And everybody loves the underdogs. South Africans script such beautiful stories.