During the seventh edition of the 50-over cricket showcase at the close of the 20th century, Klusener delivered a performance that has gone down in history as one of the most powerful in one-day cricket. He accumulated an impressive 281 runs, averaging 140.50, almost single-handedly propelling the Proteas towards their first World Cup title.
Proteas’ Near-Miss in World Cup Final
The Proteas narrowly missed out on their first World Cup final appearance, falling just short in a nail-biting semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston. Despite a heroic performance from Klusener and a memorable run out by Allan Donald in the final over, the Proteas were thwarted by a legendary display from Australian spinner Shane Warne.
Klusener’s Unmatched Performance
While many players have since surpassed Klusener’s run total in subsequent World Cup editions, few have done so with the same power and consistency as the left-handed batsman, who primarily batted at No.7, No.8 and No.9. Rhodes believes Klusener’s performance has withstood the test of time.
“Klusener almost single-handedly took us to the final,” Rhodes reminisced. “His entire tournament was virtually undefeated. He consistently demonstrated power and resilience, winning games for us from challenging situations. He never seemed to succumb to the pressure of the moment.”
Handling Criticism with Bravery
Upon returning to South Africa after the 1999 World Cup, Klusener and Donald faced criticism from fans. However, Rhodes believes the blame for not advancing to the final should be shared among the batters, including himself. The Proteas were comfortably positioned at 145/4, with Rhodes and star all-rounder Jacques Kallis at the crease, chasing Australia’s modest total of 213. However, they lost their last six wickets in quick succession, handing their opponents an unexpected spot in the title decider.
“The real bravery was how Allan Donald and Lance Klusener handled the criticism,” Rhodes stated. “There was criticism, but the batters, including myself and Jacques Kallis, should have taken responsibility. We could have taken control of the game and finished it.”
Embodying the Spirit of ‘Navarasa’
Bravery, one of the nine ‘Navarasa’ emotions associated with the 2023 World Cup edition, perfectly encapsulates Klusener and Donald’s response to missing out on the final 24 years ago. They faced the criticism with grace and even participated in tongue-in-cheek television adverts together.
“Their response was a true display of bravery,” Rhodes added. “It was an opportunity to advance to our first World Cup final, and there was a lot of criticism over the last batting pair. But as a team, we stood by them. The bravery they demonstrated, continuing to play for South Africa, was a testament to their strength. They stood together and had the support of virtually the entire country.”