Unlike many critics, I believe it is too soon to apply the Heimlich manoeuvre to the Proteas to save them from choking.
The South African cricketers have not yet actually choked. Real chokers wait for a semi-final or final to prove they are the ultimate party-poopers, and our chaps haven’t got there yet. Maybe this was just a practice run.
When they blew the game against England on Sunday, after having it in the bag, I predicted that captain Graeme Smith would describe it as yet another learning experience.
In fact he said afterwards: “We’ve got to learn from today.”
The team obviously hasn’t done enough learning. If they lose to India tomorrow, then we must assume that |they are still busy learning.
The main lesson to be learned is not to lose their heads. This is very different from choking.
You can’t choke if you haven’t got a head. A team can lose its collective head in the middle order and scratch around the crease like a headless chicken, or its tail-enders can do so when, with only a few runs to score and many balls to do so, they try to hit every ball out of the ground.
I haven’t had a chance yet to discuss this phenomenon with one of Hermanus’s cricketing experts, Geraldine Erasmus, mother of the World Cup’s newest South African umpire, Marais Erasmus.
We met while standing in the surf at Voelklip beach last week. There isn’t much about cricket that Geraldine doesn’t know. She was a Miss Marais (hence her son’s first name) and grew up in Worcester opposite the then mayor Eddie Traub, watching Eddie’s son Colin (whom I now often meet at Newlands) play cricket in the street on summer evenings, after the heat of the day.
When Geraldine married she went to live in Malmesbury, and that is where Marais did his early schooling. He has two brothers, Van der Merwe and George-Chatwind. Not surprising, says his mother, that with a name like that, George-Chatwind became very English and went off and married an Englishwoman.
But Marais was the one who showed an early aptitude for cricket, and at the age of eight was the only boy selected from his school to attend a cricketing course in the Tygerberg.
He was also the only Afrikaans-speaking boy at the course.
As an adult he played cricket at a senior level, but it was as umpire that he excelled, coming top in all the regional and then national exams. He has been on the international circuit for a year, and during school holidays his wife and twin sons join him in whatever country he happens to be “standing”.
“What about umpiring mistakes?”
I asked Geraldine, thinking of another excuse for poor old Graeme.
Just as we hold thumbs that our team doesn’t go headless or, heaven forbid, require the Heimlich manoeuvre, Geraldine is anxious that Marais always makes the right decision. After every day’s play, apparently, the umpires watch TV replays and discuss their decisions.
The only consolation to yet another South African learning experience was Ireland’s defeat of England last week.
I have a strong Irish connection, and whooped with jubilation when John Mooney hit the winning four. “What did you think of the match?” I asked an Englishman from Jersey that night.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Now I feel all choked up, too. firstname.lastname@example.org