The Madiba dividends

2013-12-21 00:00

THERE has been much talk in recent weeks about the importance of preserving the legacy of Nelson Mandela as if every person of influence shares the same view of both that legacy and the reasons why it should become part of this nation’s DNA. In a country with as diverse a populace as South Africa, this is neither a reasonable prospect nor a practical proposition for national governance.

The most important dividend of Madiba’s democracy is that in the last 21 years, the country has doubled the size of its economy. Consequently almost all of its citizens, plus a couple million immigrants, are better off than they were when Mandela was released from prison.

This is the underlying trend that would take catastrophically poor management to upset and an extreme case of pessimism to forecast. The next generation of better informed politicians is almost certain to be an improvement on the Zuma regime and we might even see a return to the heady growth of the years of the Mandela presidency and government of national unity.

Much of the discontent that many of us feel towards the current state of South African affairs has been brought about by the daily dose of irritants that confront our lives. Whether these be potholes, e-tolls, corrupt officials, broken promises, power outages or any of the varied disappointments that affect our lives, they remain just irritants that cannot compare with the frightening horrors that had been hurtling towards all of us when Madiba took those first steps out of his accommodation at Victor Verster.

That things could be better than they are is undeniable but let us never forget how bad they might have become and how much better they might be for every­one given the more business friendly environment that can be so easily achieved.

Sport, in particular, has reaped spectacular rewards from the Madiba dividend despite 21 years of sloppy, shortsighted and self-interested administration. Our athletes have generally thrived in the opportunities of an open environment and daily our sport becomes more reflective of the country’s diverse population.

Our cricket, for example, stands proud above the shambles of its administration. We have the best Test team in the world and are poised to mount a spirited challenge at the next ODI World Cup early in 2015. This summer alone we will have played host to all of Pakistan, India and Australia.

Contrary to earlier expectations, the Australian tour later this summer has become a mouthwatering prospect for cricket supporters. The Aussies’ demolition of England means that they will come here as the holders of the Ashes and all that that entails. Bursting with confidence and aggression, they will play a brand of cricket that will fully test Graeme Smith and his men.

Until the absurdity of these three- match series involving South Africa is changed, it is worth repeating that we should always play a minimum of four Tests against the others of world cricket’s big four. It is for this reason alone that it is important we do not let Michael Clarke’s team leave our shores with anything other than a series defeat, which would be the first such loss on South African soil for any Australian team since re-admission.

Having said that, we should acknowledge that the Aussies have been superb in this Ashes series. Their cricket has been typically Australian in that they have counter-attacked from shaky situations. Twice their first innings of a Test was in real trouble and both times they were able to hit their way to a respectable total that their excellent attack was able to defend.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy thing to do and yet they made it look simple against an England attack that has been highly regarded. In the process they have rendered impotent some key bowlers in the England team. Swann and Anderson have been reduced to bystanders. Poor captain Cook has been powerless in the face of the collapse of his prime destroyers. His face as George Bailey hit Anderson for 28 in an over told the tale of a man holding an impotent hand. Rather than a celebratory tour Down Under, the English are now staring down the barrel of reconstruction.

Our boys will know that this is not a young Australian team. Most of them have more yesterdays than tomorrows. This will be a long season for all their 30-somethings. We can expect their Ashes bowlers to be supplemented by some of their younger pacemen but the Protea batsmen are only too aware of the threat posed by an in-form Mitchell Johnson, who caused so much damage to Graeme Smith when he last visited this country. The Aussies are an enticing prospect but first the Indians need our attention.

There has been a fair amount of chat about the failure of the selectors to include the rampant Quinton de Kock in the Test team. One of the more sensible arguments for his inclusion is that there is no better time to introduce any player than when he is the prime form currently displayed by De Kock.

I cannot agree with the view that De Kock is “not ready for Test cricket”. “Give him a few more years in the first class game” is the kind of nonsense that kept Barry Richards out of the 1966/67 series against the Aussies when anyone could see that he was the second best batsman in the country if not the world. At 21 years of age, De Kock is just a year younger than Smith was when he was given the captaincy of the team.

In the Test team there are two obvious spots for De Kock. He could take the place of either Alviro Pietersen or Faf du Plessis, both of whom have been short of runs. These two are now under pressure to perform, which is exactly how it should be. If they want to play against the Aussies they will need runs against the Indians.

Another argument in favour of De Kock is that the sooner AB is freed from keeping wicket the better it will be for the top ranked batsman in Test cricket.

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