Has the “Choker” Crown Changed Heads?
A nail-biting thriller going down to the wire was the 2015 WC Semi-final. Millions of dreams were reborn whilst millions went up in flames. It was a mighty battle between the Proteas and the Black caps. What seemed like an opportunity for South Africans to rewrite history instead led to the nightmares of previous tournaments coming back, the ones they had been trying so hard to brush off. Elliot sending that penultimate delivery off Steyn into the stands was terror, rage, devastation and much more all packed into one single blow.
As if another failed attempt to get into the final wasn’t enough, the South Africans had officially branded themselves as the “Choker”. Now why might you ask? You see, up until then both the Kiwis and the Proteas were reputed for messing up in major knockouts. But, because that one time the Kiwis prevailed; they managed to save themselves from the derogatory title. The South Africans, on the other hand, failed to maintain their composure and hence had to bear the burden of the “Choker” tag. This was their sixth dismal attempt at glory.
Fast forward 4 years to 2019 WC Semi-final at Old Trafford. The “Indian Madchester Disaster”. What should have been a stroll in the park, turned out to be an attempt at survival for King Kohli and his men in blue. In a span of five overs; Kohli, Sharma and Rahul were back in the pavilion. From 4-0, India were 5-3. New Zealand had valiantly come to South Africa’s aid to change the head that wears the “Choker” Crown.
In an eerily similar fashion; 2019 WC has been nothing if NOT “The cup of tea for freakish coincidences”, In 2015 WC Semi-final India, after losing their top 3, crumbled to a 95-run defeat against Australia. In both cases the strongest players of the unit, the top 3, became a liability, exposing the softness and vulnerability of the Indian middle order. Captain Cool Dhoni also failed on both occasions to orchestrate his stability as a finisher. But this was only a series of ignominies India had suffered in major tournaments.
Be it the 6-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in T20 WC final in 2014, the 2015 WC Semi-final defeat to Australia in Sydney or the 7-wicket thrashing at the hands of Windies on their home soil of Wankhede in 2016 T20 WC semi-final, it was one set back after another for India. A further look into their past also reveals that the cricketing Giants had exhibited the characteristics of “Choker” much earlier than 2015. The Semi-final defeat to Sri Lanka at Eden Garden, Calcutta while chasing 251/8 was no more than a travesty. Ending up from 98/1 to 120/8 infuriated the partisan crowd who set the stadium on fire.
But none would be more horrific than the 2017 Champions Trophy Final loss against Pakistan at Oval and latest Semi-final debacle at Old Trafford against New Zealand. These two incidents may indicate that we might be witnessing the passing of the “Choker” tag from Proteas to none other than the Cricketing Giant India as it’s worthiest recipient. That a new competitor has arisen to claim the crown from the rattled South African side.
Can the fame, glam and money of India obscure this reality? a bitter one for the cricketing world; of how India is slowly but surely becoming the undisputed “Choker”. How the “Overlords” of cricket are spiralling to their fateful doom. How the New look, formidable and unbeatable India is repeatedly falling short; 5/5 in their last major ICC knockout encounters.
(This article has been written by Fasih Taqvi, currently an ‘O’ level student at Froebels International, Islamabad, Pakistan.)
©Cricket World 2019