Who is the bigger choker in international tournaments?

The South African cricket team is popularly called the ‘chokers’ because of their habit of choking under pressure in big matches and not being able to win any silverware for the past 26 years. This all began with the 1999 World Cup semi-final clash against Australia where South Africa had lost 9 wickets but only needed a run in four balls to win the match. However, as Lance Klusener touched the ball and attempted to take a quick single, Allan Donald who was on the other end decided not to run for some reason which led to him getting run out as Australia won the match and reached the final.

Since that infamous defeat to the Aussies, the Proteas have not reached the final in any of the ICC tournaments. They have also had poor runs in some tournaments like the 2003 World Cup which they hosted, but failed to qualify for the super sixes and were eliminated by Sri Lanka or the 2007 T20 World Cup which they again hosted but lost to eventual champions, India in the quarter-finals. They reached the semi-finals in many tournaments like the Champions Trophy 2006, World Cup 2007, T20 World Cup 2009 etc but always fell short on the day and were eliminated.

The Proteas made their best push for an ICC trophy during World Cup 2015. They again reached the semi-finals where they faced the hosts, New Zealand. After the batsmen did their job and helped in setting up a great total of 281, the bowlers also did a fine job in the first-half of the Kiwi innings by taking big wickets. South Africa looked set to reach their first-ever World Cup final, however Grant Elliott had other ideas. The batsman’s unbeaten knock of 84 took the game away from South Africa’s hands and it was New Zealand who came out victorious at the end and reached the final. This loss only helped in strengthening the legacy of the ‘chokers’.

South Africa may be the first team to get the choker tag, however in recent years India have also been choking under pressure in big tournaments. The first time when the Men in Blue choked in a big match was during their match against Sri Lanka in the final of the T20 World Cup 2014 where Sri Lanka easily won a rather one-sided game. Then, India ended up losing the semi-finals of World Cup 2015, T20 World Cup 2016 and World Cup 2019 to Australia, West Indies and New Zealand respectively.

Not to forget the thrashing against arch-rivals Pakistan in the Champions Trophy 2017 final. Then came a dismal run in T20 World Cup 2021 and another semi-final finish in the T20 World Cup 2022 before the team and the fans were introduced to a different level of pain because of the World Cup 2023 final against Australia. Rohit Sharma’s side convincingly lost the final at home against the Aussies which led to many fans labeling the Indian team as chokers as well.

As of right now, both teams can be called as chokers. One hasn’t won an ICC trophy for 26 years while the other hasn’t won it for 11 years. Both teams have had good campaigns in ICC tournaments but have failed to make it all the way on most of the occasions. South Africa may be the bigger chokers right now as 26 years is a far longer time than 11 years and because of the fact that India got more international trophies than them, however if they manage to beat the Men in Blue in the T20 World Cup 2024 final, then they might as well be able to take off that infamous choker tag and hand it over to India.

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