The pain of World Cups

Nobody has experienced greater pain or anguish in cricket World Cups than Lance Klusener.

At the crease on both occasions when South Africa were eliminated in successive tournaments, ‘Zulu’ could be forgiven for thinking he was cursed. Especially as South African lost neither game. The semifinal against Australia at Edgbaston in 1999 and the contest against Sri Lanka at Kingsmead four years later both finished in ties.

Mark Boucher suffered the ignominy of blocking the final ball of the 2003 match having been told that SA had reached their Duckworth Lewis target – only to discover to his horror that another run was needed for victory.

But four years earlier he was a junior member of the side which was eliminated following the Klusener/Allan Donald run-out disaster.

Even now, 14 years later and over a year into retirement, the emotionally charged moments following that match have hardly faded from his memory.

“The atmosphere in the change room afterwards was the gloomiest I ever experienced. Of all the close matches and narrow defeats, nothing compared to the mood after that game.

Guys had their heads wrapped in towels and had no inclination to engage anybody. There was nothing anybody could say to any other member of the team, they just wanted to be left alone. There were tears and a lot of anger and frustration. Bob Woolmer managed to say a few words and Steve Waugh came into the change room to shake Hansie Cronje’s hand. I think he just said: ‘Hard luck.’

Dr Ali Bacher walked in to give us a little chat but it was hopeless. He had seen it all before in his life as a captain and administrator but this was a level of cricketing grief even he hadn’t seen before. As I looked around the room it occurred to me that you could tell how many more chances each player thought he might get in his career to put this day right. Those who knew they would never get another chance were the most badly affected.

Australia had been on the rack from the start. Even half-centuries from Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh hadn’t rescued them.

When Shane Warne walked to the wicket it was 158 for six. We would have taken a total of 213 right then. Experience teaches you, however, that you don’t chase ‘targets’ in big games, you just chase the next run. Never was that more obvious than in that game.

Hansie got a shocker in the run chase, the ball bouncing off his boot to be caught at short leg off Warne. How our lives might have been different if that decision had been correct. Literally, perhaps.

Dr Bacher walked in ready to talk to us, looked around, tried to make eye contact and catch our attention, but nothing happened. And wasn’t going to. He said: ‘Gentlemen, I’m very proud of you…’ but that was all. He wanted to say more but realised he was talking to himself at that stage, so he moved on.

I knew it was bad, obviously, and it hurt me deeply, but as a youngster, I was burning with determination to get it right next time. I used that as my coping mechanism.”

(Boucher’s biography: ‘Bouch: Through my Eyes’, is published at the end of October.)


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