Bittersweet Shadows: The Legacy of South Africa’s ’99 World Cup Semifinal and the Unyielding Spirit of Cricket – By Charindra Chandrasena
Source : Charindra Chandrasena linkedin
The ending of the 1999 cricket world cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa is probably my saddest cricketing moment not involving Sri Lanka. But the result of that match is even sadder considering how South African cricket has changed since.
Hansie Cronje was an inspirational, incredible captain, and just what South Africa needed in the first decade after Apartheid. He built that team to win the ’99 WC for years, but that would prove to be his last opportunity. One year after this match Cronje was banned from cricket for life. Two years after that, he was dead.
Lance Klusner was superman in the ’99 world cup. He carried the South African team on his shoulders through the tournament and almost dug his team out of another hole in the semi-final. But after it ended, Klusner was never the same again, and quietly walked into retirement 5 years later.
This semi-final gave birth to the “chokers” tag, which has affected SA psychologically for two decades. Some of the greatest cricketers the world has ever seen like Jacques Kallis, A.B. de Villiers and Dale Steyn, had to retire without a world cup trophy as they kept crashing out of world cups.
The South African government has imposed quotas on the national team for years, to ensure a minimum number of non-white players. This has been done without developing cricket among black communities. So team selection is not purely on merit and that makes building a champion South African team difficult.
I remember watching Klusner being stranded one run short of the target and the Australian team, my most hated team at the time, jumping up and down in celebration. I felt this horrible sense of sadness wash over me. But back then, nobody knew what would happen to South African cricket after that, or that it was the beginning of Australia’s world cup dominance.
24 years on, SA is losing to Australia again in a semi-final. The current Australian team is much more likeable than the old Aussie teams so it’s fine. But sadly for SA, they will have to wait 4 more years to take a shot at a world cup.