SA's woes are psychological, says Rhodes

SA's woes are psychological, says Rhodes

It was that tournament which propelled Rhodes to the limelight, his astonishing airborne run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq captured for posterity by the quick reflexes of a still photographer.

Rhodes had a first-hand experience of the fickleness of knockout competitions when South Africa romped into the quarterfinals of the 1996 World Cup with an all-win record before being undone by a Brian Lara special. At home in 2003, a broken finger in Potchefstroom ruled him out of the World Cup midway through the Protean campaign and precipitated his retirement from international cricket, and he could only watch on helplessly as the team management somehow misread the Duckworth-Lewis numbers and slid out of their own party in embarrassing fashion.

The Proteas started strong favourites to win this year’s Champions Trophy and again flattered to deceive, going out in the first phase after defeats to Sri Lanka and England. While the word ‘chokers’ doesn’t go down too well with South Africans, Rhodes had little hesitation in admitting that the underlying problem extended beyond the execution of skills.

“I think a lot of it is psychological,” Rhodes said of South Africa’s inability to win a major one-day title since the 1998 ICC Knockout Trophy in Bangladesh. “The team has a very strong batting line-up. The pace bowling is good and the spin attack is also looking good, which has not been our strong point in the past. So to me, it is a psychological issue, more than anything else.

“One should also understand that South Africa started playing one-day international cricket only in 1991. We need to learn a lot, like Sri Lanka did over the years. You should understand that teams like India, Pakistan, England, Australia and even New Zealand were playing cricket much earlier while we were in isolation. We had to learn some hard lessons.”

Rhodes, currently a brand ambassador with Standard Bank, said 50-over cricket needed to guard itself against irrelevant matches and meaningless tournaments. “I feel the threat is when you play seven one-day internationals, like the one England and Australia played recently,” he observed. “It was too long. The Champions Trophy is over in two weeks with just eight teams in the world and some great teams playing the event. The public has come out to watch the tournament as they love to watch the best players in the world.”

With his electric fielding and energetic, entertaining, unorthodox batting, Rhodes would have fitted the demands of the Twenty20 format to the ‘T’. “It is skilful cricket, the atmosphere is great. The crowds are always with the match. The fielding is very dynamic. I am sad I missed such an atmosphere, but I am happy with what I did. I feel my journey was fine. I began as a 23-year-old boy and had a great time playing 11 years for South Africa,” added Rhodes, a happily retired 40-year-old now.

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