CARDIFF: West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo hopes that South Africa’s habit of ‘choking’ at major tournaments will work in his side’s favour when they meet in a winner-takes-all Champions Trophy clash on Friday. Whichever team comes out on top in Cardiff will join already qualified India as one of the two semi-finalists out of Group B in a competition featuring the world’s top eight one-day nations.
Despite having had several fine limited overs sides since re-admission, the Proteas haven’t lifted a major one-day trophy since winning the 1998 edition of this tournament.
Especially at World Cups, they’ve found some remarkable ways to bow out, be it a dramatic 1999 tie with Australia at Edgbaston when they had the match all but won or failing to read correctly the Duckworth/Lewis sheet for rain-affected fixtures on home soil four years later.
Hence the tag of “chokers”, one Bravo had no hesitation in using despite the fact the West Indies have not beaten South Africa in a one-day international since 2006.
“I think in tournaments, it doesn’t really matter whether you win previous games against opposition or not,” Bravo told reporters in Cardiff on Thursday.
“I think the South Africans will feel the pressure also. They know if they lose, they are going back home. They have a tag of being chokers that do not do well in big tournaments, so that would be added pressure on them.
“For us, we’re going to enjoy the occasion and forget about what happens in previous games,” added Bravo of a West Indies side who won last year’s World Twenty20 event.
“It’s a tournament. It’s a knockout game. We’ve been in this situation before, do well and go beyond. So, no pressure is on us,” the all-rounder added.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to this game tomorrow (Friday).”
South Africa, however, are set to field Dale Steyn for the first time this tournament on Friday.
Widely regarded as the best fast bowler currently in world cricket, Steyn has yet to feature in this Champions Trophy after suffering a side-strain in a warm-up defeat by Pakistan.
However, Proteas captain AB de Villuers was confident of unleashing Steyn against the West Indies.
“He bowled at a 100 percent intensity yesterday (Wednesday), and it was sort of the first part of his fitness assessment and today he’s doing a bit more,” de Villiers said.
“He’s 99.9 percent ready, but we’re just going to make sure this (Thursday) afternoon that he’ll be ready to go.
“Both teams have won one and lost one of their two pool matches thus far.
If the forecast rain does descend on Sophia Gardens to such an extent no result is possible, South Africa would go through to the last four courtesy of their superior net run-rate.
However, a reduced overs match could favour the West Indies, given their status as World Twenty20 champions.
But de Villiers said South Africa would have no problems adapting, if required, to a shortened fixture.
“Whether we play a shortened game or a normal game, it’s all about focus and team intensity off the field,” he said.
“I mention this so often, but it’s really true, the guys that can adapt the quickest can really walk on the field and switch on straight away.
“We still rate ourselves as a serious cricket team in whatever format we play and however many overs we play in,” said wicketkeeper-batsman de Villiers, also a key figure in the South Africa side now on top of the world Test rankings.
“Whatever happens tomorrow we’ll go out and make sure we play better than the opposition.”