by Ralph Staniforth

Leadership in sport

Where are they now? The heroes of 1992.

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In just under a year South Africa will again attempt to overcome their hoodoo of not being able to claim the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy. South Africa’s history at World Cups is well documented and many around the world, and within our country, know them simply as ‘chokers’.

It is a word infected with failure. A word loathed by the past and current teams and staff. But there is no getting away from it. The media will not let it lie until the team can come out and perform as consistently on the biggest stage as they do in the four years between tournaments.

By the time the World Cup starts at the end of May 2019, it will be 27 years since our first foray into the tournament after being readmitted into international sport. 1992 was a glorious year for our country and our cricket team, it was also one of the few tournaments where we did not choke.

We weren’t knocked out by a team, but rather by the weather and the laws that came into play when rain started to fall.

Obviously, since those early years, the game has improved significantly and we now enjoy the Duckworth-Lewis method to calculate the runs/wickets required when rain interrupts Not a perfect science, but a far better one than what 1992 had on offer. Whichever way we look at it, the 1992 Cricket World Cup was a major success for the team. The Proteas made their mark and have been among the top teams in the world ever since, but only once, in 1998, have they lifted an ICC trophy, and never a World Cup, despite entering most tournaments as a one of the favourites, if not the outright favourite.

Every cricket lover has their own theory as to why the Proteas fail at major tournaments, and often in such dramatic fashion – 1999, does anyone need a reminder? But, as a nation starts to build its hopes once again for next year’s tournament, we went back to South Africa’s inaugural World Cup in 1992 to see who the stars were, and what they are doing 27 years on.

Jonathan (Jonty) Rhodes

Jonty Rhodes is no doubt one of the most loved South African cricketers of all time. After being readmitted into international sport, the country needed someone young people could relate to and look up to. In many ways, Rhodes was that person.

His energy resonated well with the youth and that alone gave a nation hope. He was never one of the greatest batsmen, but his effort was never in question. During his 245 ODI’s and 52 tests, he made many significant contributions with the bat.

However, it is his exploits in the field that Rhodes will always be fondly remembered for. The 90s was the golden age of cricket, and it was also where is became a fully professional sport. Selected as part of the squad for the 1992 World Cup, the 22-year-old Rhodes went looking to make his mark on the game, and left having lit up the World Cup.

Until that point, not many people had seen fielding as an important part of the game, but the world took notice when—what is now an indelible image of that World Cup—Rhodes ran out Pakistan’s, Inzamam Ul Haq in a tight run chase which quickly became known as the ‘famous dive’. After retirement Rhodes held many positions, mainly as a fielding coach/consultant at various teams, but that energy never left him—it still hasn’t. His longest role—9 years—was as fielding coach for the IPL Mumbai Indians team, which he gave up at the end of 2017 citing family reasons.

He will be long remembered for many of his feats, but there is little arguing that the youth of the 90s were inspired by his energy, bustling nature and the smile he always wore so proudly. Most people would agree that Jonty was the best fielder to grace this planet, and the man who changed the view of fielding around the globe.

Kepler Wessels

Coming into the 1992 World Cup, Wessels was in the twilight of his international career. At 34-years old, Wessels was not the oldest in the squad but, having played for Australia, he was the only one with any kind of international experience.

So much was expected of Wessels leading a team full of international debutants. And he delivered with performance and in his leadership role within the team. Wessels’ playing career didn’t last much longer after the World Cup, but he left his mark on the team and the future captain, Hansie Cronje.

Post retirement, Wessels took up bowls to remain within a competitive sport, but he is better known for his commentary work with SuperSport.

Allan Donald

If you ever wanted a speed merchant, Donald was your man. Like many in the squad, Donald was new to the scene. At 25, he was entering his prime and the opposition at the World Cup had no idea what was heading towards them.

In the Proteas’ opening game, against hosts Australia, Donald’s first delivery nicked the edge of the bat and was caught behind – celebrations ensued but the umpire didn’t raise the finger. Later, the umpire admitted that he had not seen the nick as Donald’s pace had surprised him so much. Luckily, that mistake didn’t make a difference; the Proteas went on to win the game comfortably.

Donald had announced himself to the world, and he remained at the top of his game throughout the 90s, establishing himself among the greatest fast bowlers to have played the game. Having started his international career at 25, he was never going to threaten the top wicket takers in history, but he will always be remembered as one of South Africa’s, and indeed the worlds, finest pacemen.

Unfortunately, his final professional years were hampered by injuries and he retired from international cricket in 2003. Upon retiring Donald turned to coaching, something he has taken on and succeeded with in numerous roles.

These roles have been as bowling coach or consultant for New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia. He is currently the assistant coach for county side Kent in the United Kingdom.

Fondly known as ‘White Lightning’, Donald will be remembered for many great moments during his playing career. There were some heated battles, none more so than with Michael Atherton, the former England opening batsman at Trent Bridge in 1998, but it was at the 1992 Cricket World Cup where he stormed onto the world stage and never looked back.

Hansie Cronje

Another young man, 22, came into that first World Cup without fear. Talented beyond measure, the start of his career was not nearly as controversial as the end of it. To this day, the public, both locally and internationally, have mixed feelings about Cronje.

Many still regard him as South Africa’s greatest captain, having taken over the reigns from Kepler Wessels. His career started with a bang but unfortunately ended at the King Commission after being found guilty of match fixing.

Regardless of his later transgressions, Cronje did many good things for the game in South Africa. Perhaps his finest moments with bat in hand came in the moments where he took the all conquering Shane Warne to the cleaners with slog-sweep after slog-sweep. Lest we forget, his contribution with the ball was more than handy, too.

Cronje’s cricketing career was cut short by the corruptions scandal and, sadly, due to an unfortunate plane crash, his life ended in 2002.

For some, the lasting memory of Cronje will be the scandal, but for others, his feats on the fields will be what remains in their minds.

Conclusion

There were others in that 1992 World Cup squad that went on to make a name for themselves through the 90s, while others were already close to retirement. The likes of Omar Henry, who was 40 by the time the team left for that World Cup was unfortunate in that his career coincided with the apartheid area.

Other players were Dave Richardson, one of the finest wicketkeepers around, who now serves as the CEO of the ICC. Andrew Hudson, who opened the batting for the Proteas for many years before retiring and later served as a selector for the Proteas. Brian McMillan, who became one of the leading all-rounders in the game during his career.

There were very few expectations around that 1992 World Cup. South African were an unknown entity, but by the end of it, they were very well known.

The game was played without the baggage our Proteas will travel with next year, but one would hope we can eventually overcome it and bring the trophy home.

Who knows, if it weren’t for the rain on that ill-fated night in Sydney perhaps we wouldn’t be carrying that burden, we might even have handled the pressure better in ensuing World Cups. But, it was not to be. 2019 offers renewed hope for our Proteas.

*Imran Khan, captain of the Pakistan team that won the 1992 Cricket World Cup, has recently been elected as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. 

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