Steyn finds 'chokers' tag unfair

The fast bowler bristles at his country's reputation saying South Africa do not deserve to go into next year's World Cup with a reputation for choking.

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PRETORIA // South Africa do not deserve to go into next year's World Cup with a reputation for choking, Dale Steyn, their premier fast bowler, said yesterday. South Africa have exited the 50-over showpiece tournament in three semi-finals, a quarter-final and in the first round of the 2003 event they hosted. In May, they were knocked out of the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies in the second group stage despite being one of the favourites. They are still licking their wounds from that disappointment, but Steyn said the "chokers" tag struck a nerve.

"For me, to be labelled as 'chokers' really sucks," he said. "This team is made up of a lot of young guys who will play for South Africa for a long time. Why are we being called chokers? A lot of us have never been to a World Cup before. "I've played in two T20 World Cups but there was hardly a year between them and you could hardly pick yourself up from the last one. It was extremely disappointing what happened in the West Indies, but we have another opportunity at the end of this season and hopefully we can get this monkey off our back."

The world's No 1-ranked Test fast bowler said his team were getting themselves sharp for the World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh before their opening match on February 24 against West Indies in Delhi. Before the World Cup they will play three one-dayers against Zimbabwe, five ODIs and two Tests against Pakistan in Dubai and three Tests and five ODIs at home against India. "With the World Cup just around the corner, we need to have the perfect side to play in those conditions, players that will fit like a glove," said Steyn.

"If you ask me a year from now what was the highlight of the season, beating India at home in a Test series or the World Cup, let's be honest, we want to bring that trophy back with us." * Reuters