An exclusive love match

2009-04-10 00:00

CRICKET SA (CSA) may be pleased with the deal it struck to lure the IPL to South Africa, but the word is that some of the provinces are far from happy, for several reasons. The most important of these reasons, from a financial perspective, is that no one is sure what Gerald Majola promised the Indians.

No sooner was the ink dry on the overarching agreement than IPL “royalty” descended on the major cricket venues of South Africa to determine which of the facilities at the various grounds would have to be set aside for them and their close supporters. Their assumption was that as far as was physically practical they would be accommodated, free of expense, in the same degree of comfort they would have been had the tournament been held in India.

That there should have been any negotiation on this matter did not occur to them. Their manners, when their approaches met with solid resistance, did not endear any of them to local chief executives who quickly made apparent where they stood in terms of a perceived master and servant relationship.

The battle is now being fought over the rights of provincial suite holders, without whom none of the grounds in South Africa would have been fit for the purpose required by the IPL. Cricket’s privateers, who are insisting that suite holder rights are subservient to those of their own, have fired the latest sally by insisting that suite holders pay $1 000 ground admission per ticket per match. This issue promises to descend into a mighty scrap between the provinces and Majola, who seems to be batting for the IPL.

It has also become apparent that the ground usage fee of R125 000 per match is derisory for the bigger venues that the IPL requires for its most important matches. This works out at less than 10 000 euros, which would not buy a pair of grumpy gatekeepers at Lord’s. To put this into perspective, it is less than the cost of a full page colour advert in any local newspaper. On Monday, every major newspaper in the country had three such pages paid for by the IPL. Do the sums and you soon realise that the provinces feel shortchanged by Majola’s deal.

A more important concern is that CSA were represented at the crucial meeting with the IPL by Majola, acting alone. He did not bother to take with him Don McIntosh, CSA’s financial director, or a legal adviser of any kind. When a deal of this potential magnitude is being handled, I would have thought that proper corporate governance prescribed that a minimum delegation of three was the very least that the provinces would regard as acceptable.

If one takes into account the U.S. criminal record of Lalit Modi, the chief executive of the IPL, the failure of Majola to take others into the IPL negotiations renders him open to the kind of rumour that often ends up shortening careers. In 1985, Modi pleaded guilty to the possession of 400 grams of cocaine and to charges of assault and kidnapping. He was sentenced to two years in jail.

For too long the provinces have allowed CSA to get away with an attitude that befits an owner rather than a mother body that exists for the purpose of nurturing the collective activities of its affiliated bodies. The recently appointed president of CSA, Dr Mtutuzeli Nyoka, is a good man, but he needs to seize the example of these IPL negotiations to put Majola in his place.

The fact remains that the IPL is a competitive brand of cricket that threatens the foundations of the proper game. It seems to me that too many people have bent over backwards to satisfy the IPL with little consideration given to the long-term consequences of their intentions.

In this regard, the cricket thus far in the one-day series has not been much of an advertisement for the 50/50 game. Although the results were different, the first two matches were dreadfully one-sided with the outcomes apparent far too early in the proceedings. In each case the losing teams seemed to have their minds elsewhere and succumbed without fight.

From a South African perspective, the bowling of Wayne Parnell in Centurion was exciting. It is a long time since a left-arm quickie of any class was part of our cricket. Parnell has made good ground this year and, at 19, there is the potential of more to come.

The temptation to over-bowl him must be resisted. He is still growing into his frame and the history of cricket is littered with examples of young fast bowlers whose careers have been ruined by persistent injuries brought about by them being thrust ahead too much too soon.

As I write, the next match in the one day series is a day-nighter in Cape Town where the team that wins the toss almost invariably wins the match. The South Africans finally won a toss and with it the match. This time, at least, the contest went the full distance though the South Africans hefty hitting in the last 10 overs, which saw them reach almost 300, was always going to be a winning score.

This series, which should be capping a remarkable summer’s cricket between these two teams, is in danger of becoming a mere preamble for the IPL circus.

• Ray White is a former UCB president.

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