Moments after South Africa’s emotional exit from the 2003 World Cup at Kingsmead, when the infamous Duckworth Lewis calculation went horribly wrong and the match against Sri Lanka finished in a tie rather than victory for the host nation, Lance Klusener made a comment which was intended to ease the pain.
Instead, it was misinterpreted and ended up causing more pain. “Oh well, at least we’ll have a couple more weeks to go fishing,” he said, weakly.
It was Zulu’s version of the famous Boris Becker quote when the German tennis star was eliminated from Wimbledon in the first round when he was defending champion and tournament favourite: “I lost a tennis match, I didn’t kill anyone. Nobody died,” Becker told a stunned room full journalists at the post-match press conference.
It is human nature for most people to lighten the disappointment of defeat by laughing in its face. And so it was with Dale Steyn when he spoke to a group of journaslists just moments after being named as South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year.
Amongst other things, Steyn was asked about his experience in the IPL where his team, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, the most expensive franchise in the tournament, finished second last.
“It was like a paid holiday,” Steyn said. “We didn’t have to work hard unless you wanted to, which is probably why we finished second last,” Steyn joked.
Except that it wasn’t a joke at all to the IPL and the Bangalore owners and administrators who were humiliated by the failures of the team. Steyn’s attempt to ‘lighten’ the disappointment of defeat could be the most expensive mistake he makes in his entire life if his contract with Bangalore is terminated, as the team has every right to consider doing.
“I was speaking just moments after being named as South Africa’s cricketer of the year at a gala banquet and I was pretty emotional. I was trying to be funny and just ended up being stupid – I was an idiot,” a deeply apologetic Steyn said after his comments had been made public around the world.
“I was asked whether the IPL had been hard physically and I said ‘no’ because I only had to bowl four overs per game. The rest of my comments were meant to reinforce the fact that T20 cricket is very, very different from Test cricket as far as wear and tear on the body is concerned,” Steyn said.
“The truth is, I tried my absolute hardest for Bangalore in every game and I was as disappointed as anyone that we fared so poorly. I desperately regret my naievity and look forward to the opportunity of helping the Franchise reach the semi finals next year.
“I have written to the Franchise to express my unreserved regret and apologies and tried to explain the circumstances of my comments. Sometimes, when you lose, you try to make a joke of it to lessen the disappointment. It was a stupid thing to say and a painful lesson for me to learn,” Steyn said.
Klusener didn’t mean harm, and neither did Steyn. But as Klusener learned the hard way, it takes a long time to recover from even the most innocent of gaffes.
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