How Cricket SA have done their best to ruin Australia’s upcoming tour of South Africa

2011-05-14 00:00

CRICKET South Africa (CSA) is talking bunkum. Far from carrying out its duty of care towards the game in this country it is letting it go downhill. Those seeking confirmation about the lamentable state of affairs at CSA might consider the fixture list prepared for the Australians. Better than anything else it exposes the mindset of our current office bearers.

Australia’s tour is eagerly awaited by all people with cricket deep in their heart. Here is an opportunity to pit the finest of this land against the best the Aussies can produce. It is a clash steeped in tradition, a confrontation calculated to examine the strength and skills of the combatants. The sight of two proud and sturdy teams going hammer and tongs in a Test series takes the game to its highest level. History remembers these clashes long after the rest has been forgotten.

Over the years it has not been easy to arrange full scale series between these nations because both inhabit the southern hemisphere (along with only 20% of the World’s population which, by the way, explains a lot and indeed forecasts the downfall of southern hemisphere sport because the other lot have cornered the cash). Lately SA has rightly insisted on staging its own Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests so the squeeze is on. As a result there will be no more Christmas tours Down Under. Inevitably series have been limited to three matches, the bare minimum needed to give them some meaning.

Admittedly it was a shame time did not permit a proper five match engagement. Everyone knows that 5 is a special number. Operas, plays, tennis contests and so much else recognise that it allows the development of a story, tolerates twists and turns and also promotes the likelihood of a clear and unequivocal result. Four does not quite work because it is neither here nor there, a trait it has in common with Belgium.

Arranging three matches resembles a Readers Digest version of a classic but better than available alternatives. Several exciting three-match series have been staged and though regrets were held that another two contests could not be played at least the tale had been told. Anything lower and the beginning and end might as well shake hands.

Doubtless local enthusiasts were enthralled by the prospect of the new Aussies arriving in spring and playing a worthwhile series. Alas, CSA has decreed otherwise.

Australia will play two T20 matches, three ODIs and two Tests and then toddle off home. Frankly they might as well not bother coming.

CSA pleaded time doesn’t not permit a third Test to be played. It’s nonsense. CSA points out that the IPL and Champions Trophy bite into the summer, forcing host nations to pack a lot into the remaining time. But it is all a question of priorities.

In any case the argument does not survive scrutiny. Australia arrives in time to play its first T20 match on October 13 and departs after the second Test finishes on November 21. The Aussies are here for six weeks. In that period they will play 20 days of cricket plus a warm-up match or two. The teams break for three and four days between each fifty over match. It’s hardly an exhausting schedule. Nowadays teams complain about having too much time on their hands.

Not time but attitude is the problem. How on earth have these two powerful cricket nations ended up playing as many T20s as Test matches? In some opinions T20 ought to be reserved for provinces and clubs. It’s hardly serious. Yet CSA fitted two such frivolities into a tight programme. As regards the ridiculous gaps between ODIs, well the Aussies are probably partly to blame. Except in the West Indies, players associations do a lot of good work, but they talk too much about rest and recuperation whilst their members queue up for IPL contracts.

CSA’s other mistake has been well documented. How on earth Gerald Majola and company convinced themselves that holding an internal inquiry into the financial allegations made and backed up by their own president was sufficient is mind boggling. Along the way they first appointed and then stood down an eminent jurist. The entire episode was a disgrace.

At present about the only thing to be said on CSA’s behalf is that Ray Mali has been packed off to athletics and Norman Arendse is pursuing his law career. Even so it’s hard to avoid feeling that CSA is going through a worse patch even than their Test captain. The summer has been reduced before it has even begun.

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