Sydney: South Africa captain AB de Villiers insisted his side will not choke when they try to end their World Cup knockout misery in a Sydney quarter-final with Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
The Proteas have never won a World Cup knockout match since their tournament debut in 1992, with a series of near-misses leaving them with the unwanted tag of "chokers". But for de Villiers, history really is all in the past. "All I can say is we're not going to choke tomorrow. We're going to play a good game of cricket and come out on top. Simple," he told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
AB de Villiers. Pic/ AFP
"How do we approach it? We think we've just got to try and play a good game of cricket," the in-form batsman, whose last appearance at the SCG saw him score a stunning 162 not out against the West Indies in the pool stage. "I think it's important to focus on what we've been doing well and try and do that tomorrow. We have certain strengths we like to focus on and not focus too much on the opposition. We've got to (keep things) as simple as possible. Strike with the new ball, try and bowl them out, if we bat first get a big total and put them under pressure."
South Africa, like Sri Lanka, won four and lost two of their pool matches, with the Proteas beaten by 130 runs by defending champions India and going down by 29 runs to Pakistan. "I don't believe we've been awful, I feel we've had had a pretty decent tournament so far, finished second in the log (Pool)," said de Villiers. "We had a tough game against India, where things could have been different, I believe. "That's about it. Other than that, we've played some good cricket. Against Pakistan, I wasn't too upset about that except for the fact we didn't show enough fight with the bat. But we bowled exceptionally well."
"We have to win tomorrow. We've lost two games (but) we are pretty much on track. "That's what it comes down to, no one is going to ask us if we played exceptional cricket when we win the World Cup. We are just going to say that 'we won the Cup'. "So we just want to find a way to win the game tomorrow."
- 'Mentally fresh' -
South Africa, often accused of being excessively tense in big games, didn't train on Tuesday. "I just felt it was important not to focus too much on cricket today, sort of get the brain switched off a little bit before the big clash," said de Villiers. "It's important for us to be fresh. I believe we play really good cricket when we're mentally fresh, and we play those pressure situations so much better."
Some have tried to bill the match as a contest between de Villiers and Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, who comes into the match having scored a record four successive one-day international hundreds. "To be very honest, and I hope you don't take it the wrong way, I couldn't care less about him or me. I just want to win the game of cricket tomorrow," said the 31-year-old.
"If it's our No. 11 batsman tomorrow who wins the game for us, so be it. I just want to find a way to win." As for South Africa's failure to win a World Cup knockout match, de Villiers said: "We can't focus on what happened back in the day. We can just work with what we've got right now. I'm the captain, and I want to lead by example. And I believe the guys will follow."