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Fans not hurt, but angry

Cape Town, March 4: South African Airways’ spin doctors will either have to script a fresh promo or immediately black out a hoarding which just can’t be missed across the country — “Dear Polly, we’ll get them here. It’s up to you to send them back.”

After last night, that has become a most inappropriate promotional and the longer it stays, the more traumatising South Africa’s exit from World Cup 2003. Acknowledged as one of the pre-tournament favourites, Shaun Pollock’s team won’t even figure in the Super Six.

“Heartbreaking”, read today’s banner headline in South Africa’s No. 1 English daily, The Star, reflecting popular emotion after the tie at Kingsmead, against Sri Lanka, knocked out the principal hosts.

Of course, rain came at quite the wrong time in Durban (as in Sydney 11 years ago). Yet, the Pollocks have to be blamed for having left it till the very last league game. Indeed, while the shock is pretty evident across South Africa, there’s anger too at a campaign which derailed in the opening match itself, versus the West Indies. “We weren’t good enough,” spat Alvin Carstens, the cabbie who drove us to The Cullinan from the airport. He quickly added: “Actually, most of us are more angry than hurt. South Africa never looked like being the team to beat...”

Earlier in the day, at Johannesburg airport, much of the talk centred around Jacques Kallis’ contribution — or, rather, the lack of it. It didn’t help that he dropped Brian Lara in the opener, on duck, and the stalwart posted a Man of the Match award-winning century.

What’s inexplicable is that no specific message was sent to Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener yesterday, informing them of what exactly was required on each ball of that dramatic 45th over. After all, one run off the last delivery would have carried South Africa to the Super Six and sent New Zealand home. Instead, Boucher allowed a dot ball.

It will be unfair to crucify Boucher, as the brickbats have to be taken by coach Eric Simons and Pollock, both of whom ought to have been calculating after every delivery.

“It’s got to rank as possibly the most disappointing thing. Two ties in the last two World Cups and out of both of them.... The players are gutted.... I felt we deserved better on the day,” is what Pollock had to say, as he grieved on home turf.

The South African selectors, with Omar Henry in the chair, must also take their share of the blame. It’s a fact that Allan Donald wasn’t in form, but his experience would have been more than handy in what became such a crunch game. Apparently, Henry and his colleagues insisted that Monde Zondeki be included.

“South Africa’s manner of exiting is sad, yes, but they weren’t consistent.... And, to repeat what I’ve said earlier, there ought to have been a reserve day for all league matches,” Sourav Ganguly told The Telegraph on the flight (aboard the longest commercial airliner, an Airbus A 340-600) from Jo’burg to here.

Sourav, however, admitted South Africa’s departure should make India’s run in the Super Six a little easier. India, in any case, are pretty comfortably placed with eight points carried over from the league stage.

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