London: Samuel Beckett's famous 'tragicomedy', Waiting for Godot, has been widely celebrated across the world of literature. There are several readings of the play and Beckett's, perhaps conscious, decision to let Godot be an illusionary figure has led to several theories about the identity of the character.
One thing that is certain is that Godot is a cherished figure, something or someone that will provide peace, joy and in some sense 'nirvana' to those waiting for it. The theme of the play thus comes very close to the fate of the South African cricket team in ICC tournaments.
So, when South African captain AB de Villiers entered for the press conference after the 8-wicket humbling at the hands of India, which means they crashed out of another ICC tournament, it almost seemed perfect that he would address the media by saying, "Mr Godot told me to tell you he won't come this evening but surely tomorrow."
Comparisons apart, ever since their comeback to international cricket in the post-apartheid era, South Africa has been one of the finest sides in both Test and one-day cricket. Their consistency in both formats has seen them become the number 1 side in ICC rankings on several occasions, but when it comes to the big ICC tournaments in both the 50-over format and now T20s, they have been found wanting in pressure situations despite being the favourites on several of these occasions.
AB de Villiers is the torch bearer of the current generation of cricketers, which many believe has been a golden generation. But this latest defeat has left the captain looking for answers and unsure of how to approach the future.
"I am not thinking about the next one now. We are not thinking about the next tournament which is probably the World Cup in 2019. We had covered all the bases before this tournament and we worked very hard in the nets. We back each other and we trust each other and for some reason things like these just happen," the champions batsman said in the post match conference.
Three run-outs and a clear lack of aggression in the face of some disciplined Indian bowling saw the Proteas crumble like a pack of cards again in a must-win match. When asked if the team needs any radical changes in terms of their temperament and thinking during such matches, de Villiers pointed out that almost everything has been tried and tested.
"We have tried a lot of things in this regard, psychologists and training camps but nothing seems to be working."
While South African cricket can look into these questions all over again as they prepare for the next big ICC event, the other big question that confronts the team is the fate of the captain.
While de Villiers' place in the team is unquestionable, his leadership has come under scrutiny after yet another failed attempt. The prolific batsman had guided his team to the semi-final of the ICC World Cup in 2015, but ouster from the group phase in both the 2016 ICC WT20 and now from the Champions Trophy has led to a few question marks about his pedigree as a leader. So, when the question came up about whether he wants to continue as captain, it was a blunt yes from the man.
"I believe that I am good captain and I can take this team forward. I believed the same thing in this tournament and the last one. I love doing it (captaining the side).
"Not a lot of people believe that but I think it is not that far away(winning an ICC tournament). It is very difficult to sell it on this kind of performance but that is what I believe in. We are very close as a unit and there is more than enough talent in the squad...Absolutely, I will play in the next World Cup," said De Villiers.
So, for now it is back to where they started from. South African cricket's moment of nirvana has been on the horizon for long but has eventually turned out to be a mirage everytime. AB de Villiers is confident that his bunch is very close to it, what needs to be seen is whether the administrators of the sport also feel the same.