As a redoubtable optimist amid this global pandemic, I would still see light in the deepest cave, hope in the most catastrophic moments and a longing to live amid uncertainty galore.
Similarly, when it comes to cricket in South Africa, despite being under the academic cloud akin to the raging battles between CSA and SASCOC with a system crippled by corruption, engulfed in dirty politics, fuelled by resignations, rattled by racial divide, marred by lack of sponsors and devoid of a future cricketing schedule, I still believe there is a dose of positivity which will surely bring a smile to every Protea fan.
So, what am I talking about?
Well, it’s the sweet taste of success which is South Africa’s pride and the world’s envy.
Let me add some meat to the bone.
South Africa since readmission, holds an enviable record of scoring more wins than losses over each opposition in One Day Internationals.
From the post isolation period, in 625 games played, the Proteas have won 385, lost only 216, with 6 ties and 18 no result. A whopping win percentage of 61.60.
Yes, let that sink in.
Truth be told, in a country blessed with warriors, the likes of Keppler Wessels, Brian McMillan, Allan Donald, Jonty Rhodes, Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock, Daryll Cullinan, Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini, Mark Boucher, Lance Klusener, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock and more, how can one expect anything less?
So, let’s dissect how South Africa has fared against each opposition to achieve this desirable feat.
Afghanistan: Played- 1, Won- 1
As per political experts, South Africa is 5 times more dangerous to live in than war-ridden Afghanistan and when it comes to cricket also South Africa is more dangerous albeit in a good sense as having only played Afghanistan once at the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas triumphed by 9 wickets chasing a paltry target of 127.
Australia: Played-103, Won- 51, Lost- 48, Tied- 3, No Result- 1
The cricketing Gods have titled the Australia-South Africa clashes as southern hemisphere classics.
The Proteas have more than got the measure of the Kangaroos in recent times right from beating them 5 nil at home in 2016, a series that belonged to David Miller, Andile Phelukwayo, and Kyle Abbott to winning 2-1 down under in 2018 when Faf, Miller, Dale, and Rabada outperformed themselves scaling new heights to beating them again in the 2019 World Cup which was again captain charismatic Faf du Plessis show having got a ton and now more recently 3 nil at home in Feb- March this year with youngsters the likes of Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreyne and Henrich Klassen coming to the party.
Also, who can forget the famous 438 games in 2006 between these 2 heavyweights at the iconic Wanderers in Johannesburg where Herschelle Gibbs scored a mammoth 175 of 111 deliveries to chase Australia’s 434 which will continue to be inked in our memories till the end of time.
Well, for me as a die-hard Protea supporter it surely can’t get better than this.
Bangladesh: Played – 21, Won- 17, Lost- 4
From a pure cricketing perspective, it is expected for South Africa to hold a knife’s edge over minnows Bangladesh, but with the tenacity of the Bangla tigers’ things haven’t been all rosy.
Sure, in recent times, there is always a challenge when South Africa locks horns with Bangladesh.
Canada: Played -1, Won- 1
South Africa and Canada have only met once in the 2003 World Cup, with the Southern African giants beating the nation from northern America by a massive 118 runs; expected, if I may.
England: Played- 63, Won- 30, Lost- 28, Tied- 1, No Result- 4
South Africa in the 90s and 2000s held a constant knife-edge over England, but in the latter part of this decade, Eoin Morgan’s World Cup-winning team has more than put a fight against the Proteas with beating them in 2017 and tying a series in 2020.
The last being earlier this year in South Africa under the new Proteas captain Quinton de Kock.
India: Played- 84, Won- 46, Lost- 35, No Result- 3
Arguably one of the better teams in ODI cricket, the men in blue under Virat Kohli have got a measure of the Proteas beating them in the 2019 World Cup as well as the series in South Africa in 2018 5-1.
The 2018 ODI series was one to forget for the Proteas under then young stand-in skipper Aiden Markram in the absence of regular skipper Faf du Plessis after crushing India in the preceding test series 2-1.
Truth be told, South Africa were convincingly beaten by India in the ODI leg having had no answers for the line and length of Bhuvenshwar Kumar and the lethal pace and toe crushing yorkers of Japrit Bumrah matched with the wily web spun by the spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Unfortunately, the last tussle, scheduled in India earlier this year couldn’t get underway owing the onset of the pandemic.
Still, overall the Proteas have a big edge over the Indians.
Ireland: Played- 5, Won- 5
Well, the Proteas have truly bestowed the Irish curse over Ireland with 5 wins from 5 games played.
Kenya: Played- 10, Won- 10
The nation of the Masai Mara hasn’t been able to beat their Southern African neighbors in a single bout out of the 10 games contested.
Speaks volumes of the Protea dominance.
The Netherlands: Played- 4, Won- 4
The European nation were decimated by the sheer brilliance of arguably the best all-rounder in world cricket Jacques Kallis when he hit 128 of 109 balls and Herschelle Gibbs 6 consecutive sixes in an over in the 2007 World Cup with the Proteas amassing a total of 353 which was too hot for the Dutch to handle.
Well, the team in orange have been in shock ever since.
New Zealand: Played- 71, Won- 41, Lost- 25, No Result- 5
When we talk about Protea-Black caps classics, one game that springs to mind is the 2015 World Cup semi-final when the Kiwi, Grant Elliot deposited Dale Steyn over the boundary to pave the way to the final.
It was a game the Proteas should have won, but unfortunately, the choker voodoo got the better of them.
Having said this, most games have been dominated by the Proteas, as the record speaks for itself.
Pakistan: Played- 79, Won- 50, Lost- 28, No Result- 1
South Africa has always got the better of Pakistan with winning 8 of the 9 series played between these nations.
The men in green have always put up great contests against the Proteas albeit ending on the losing side.
Scottland: Played- 1, Won- 1
South Africa and Scotland have only met once in the 2007 World Cup with the Proteas gaining their measure with a 7-wicket win.
Sri Lanka: Played- 77, Won- 44, Lost- 31, Tied- 1, No Result- 1
In recent history, Sri Lanka when playing in South Africa has never been able to put up a contest with the Proteas beating them in the last 10 home games.
In Sri Lanka also, the Proteas have tasted success in the last series, winning by a 3-2 margin.
One can surely say, the team in green and gold have more than dominated the Lankan lions.
The UAE: Played- 2, Won- 2
The Emirates nation has ended up on the losing side in both the World Cup ties of 1996 when one of the best opening batters in world cricket, Gary Kirsten scored a whopping 188 which is the highest score ever mounted by a Protea in ODIs and more recently 2015 when the Proteas scored a gigantic 341 with AB de Villiers scoring 99 of just 82 balls and dismissing UAE for a paltry 195 in reply.
The West Indies: Played-62, Won-44, Lost- 15, Tied- 1, No Result- 2
One can surely say, the men from the Caribbean are a certain Abraham Benjamin de Villiers’s bunny.
Well, the South African has decimated their bowling not once but twice in the same year of 2015 with scoring 149 of 44 balls in the pink ODI and then 162 of 66 balls in the World Cup clash with the Proteas triumphing in both.
What’s more his 150 in the World Cup was the fastest by any batter and the Windies are still reeling from the scars.
Truth be told, a team boasting stalwarts the likes of Lara, Gayle, Russell, Bravo, and others has been too meek when it comes to challenging the Mzansi (the colloquial name for South Africa)
Zimbabwe: Played- 41, Won- 38, Lost- 2, No Result- 1
From the time the 2 Southern African neighbors have locked horns in ODI cricket, South Africa has won all the series.
Zimbabwe had one claim to fame when their well-oiled team in the 1999 World Cup boasting a golden generation of players the likes of Neil Johnson, Murray Goodwin, Flower brothers, Alistair Campbell, Heath Streak and more got the better of the Proteas.
However, purely from a records angle, South Africa truly is Zimbabwe’s bigger brother.
To conclude, the world might label the Proteas as chokers which for me is debatable, but truth be told in their hearts, undeniably, they are amazed by the greatness and astute performance of the men in green and gold.
As a South African cricket loyalist, I surely hope sooner than later CSA should be able to get its house in order, to witness the Proteas domination on the world stage. Again!
One thing I can guarantee, the players are as eager to perform as the fans are to see them perform.
So, getting onto the field is all that’s left?