In the English language,the word simply indicates the act of suffocation by congestion,but in the cricketing universe,it directly implies the very reason South African sides both past and present fail at crucial junctures. Other teams lose; South Africa choke. Chasing 191 for victory and having reached a situation where just 39 runs were required with six wickets in hand,South Africa choked. As India pulled off the most remarkable 1-run win in recent times,the paying public at the Wanderers in Johannesburg watched with disbelief as South Africa collapsed from 152/4 with Smith playing a captains knock of 77 to 189 all out.
In South Africa though,a collapse is fine,choking isnt. You have to be a South African,or at least experience the act of choking unfolding in front of your eyes,to know what the fans experience when their cricket team somehow manages to make a meal of an already-pocketed match.
Choking is,and has always been,SAs Achilles heel. Just ask the opposition skipper.
It is something that will always follow them,irrespective of whether the opposition says it in so many words or not. It will always haunt them,just like the losing in finals haunts us. You cant really run from it, MS Dhoni said after the match.
While Dhoni was at his eloquent best,the mood was very different during the blink-and-miss Smith press-conference one that wasnt attended by most of their journalists. Smith was clearly smarting,and when asked if his side got complacent,he said: No.
Reeking with disappointment,Smith departed the scene 3 1/2 minutes after he arrived in front of the chirpy Indian media,before the word that sends shudders down South Africas collective spines could be mentioned. During his short stay in front of the bunched microphones,Smiths word-of-the-day was glory.
We have to work on our decision making. We werent smart enough with the bat. We have to be a bit more solid instead of searching for glory. It was very frustrating. We should have gotten over the line if some of our batters didnt go looking for glory, he added.
Although the word that cannot be mentioned wasnt,it hung around murkily in the media room. Memories of SAs World Cup defeats in 1999 and 2003 came flooding back,as the verb was once again lingered as a punch to the solar-plexus on Saturday. Its a tag they cant get rid of; one that they are still learning to live with.