“I think we dealt with it really well in that 24 hours, and then we went home and everyone went our own way. But getting together the next time as a South African team and walking back to the dressing room, I felt like we hadn’t spoken about what happened few months ago,” Steyn told ESPNcricinfo. “And we needed to make sure that that elephant was out of that room. It was certainly still in the room for what I felt was a long time.”
Describing the aftermath of that evening in Auckland where a golden generation of South Africa ODI cricketers lost their chance to reach the final, Steyn said that the first thing he did was “put a smile on his face and be a professional.”
“But I thought to the public eye, when you’re on TV, you have to maintain that professional image. Put a smile on your face, be professional when you’ve been beaten in a big game. You’ve got to take the losses with the wins and the good with the bad. But as soon as you get in the dressing room, my role was to pick up all the players around me. And that was very heavy. We all kind of went to our rooms that night, I’m sure everyone was upset.
“The next morning there was a group message, ‘guys, there’s a breakfast planned somewhere’, and we all got together. Then it was as if the night before never happened. We tried to move on as quickly as we could.
“A year or two years after that had happened, did we start to address it as a team. As individuals, everyone dealt with it their own way. But as a team, we hadn’t unraveled it or spoken about it.”
South Africa have reached the semi-finals of the ODI World Cup four times before – 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015, with the team falling on the wrong side of the result on all four times, including three in dispiriting circumstances. In 2003, at home, it was a miscalculation of the par scores that sent them out.
“They’re more battle hardened now,” he said. “From 1999 through all those years, there was one World Cup every four years. Now it feels like there’s a World Cup every year, be it 50-over or 20-over and a lot of these players are participating in all of them. So they’ve learnt how to handle losing, going home, and preparing for the next one happening in a very short time.
“For this one, they are as ready as they can be. It can feel like they’ve had baggage for a very long time, they’ve lost out on other World Cups due to simple things – maybe net run-rate…. but certainly not for bad cricket.”