Boxing Day Test absence may make the heart grow fonder

2012-06-08 00:00

WHEN South Africa’s five Christmas tours to Australia since isolation are put aside, their cricket season will be without a Boxing Day Test for the first time since 1992. It is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cricket South Africa have been in the news for all the wrong things recently, but the absence of a Boxing Day Test for the 2012/13 season is one of the wiser agendas that have been forwarded and seconded by the board. Test cricket purists may cry foul and throw their bats out of the nets, but the decision makes very good sense.

For the foreseeable future, South African cricketers will be spending Christmas at home. Before that, every fourth season meant a trip to Australia and 1 am wake-up calls. Things became marginally better when Perth was included in the roster, but the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day fixtures presented big problems for South African viewers as they started at 2 am.

This move might seem to kick sand in the faces of the New Zealanders, but facing facts, the Black Caps are far from crowd pullers in the five-day game. They may often punch above their weight in one-day internationals and embarrass the Proteas at international tournaments, like they did at Mirpur last year, but in Test cricket their arsenal is underarmed.

Unlike the Melbourne Boxing Day Test, which averages around 70 000 spectators on the first day alone, Durban folks have taken the game for granted and they hardly rock up to Kingsmead. Like in any Test, crowds do thin out at the MCG, but Kingsmead’s paltry crowds have been an eyesore. Even crowd-pulling teams like India and England have struggled to bring in the bumper crowds for what is a sacrosanct day in the southern hemisphere cricketing calendar.

South Africa’s home record in Boxing Day Tests does not make for good reading. In fact, Durban is to South Africa like Perth and Brisbane were to Australia when the West Indies came knocking. Between 1979 and 1996, Australia were routinely pummelled at the Gabba and the Waca by the Windies.

Since 2002, South Africa have only beaten the West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and India in Durban, with their last win at the ground coming in January 2008, when Shaun Pollock’s four-wicket first-innings haul in his last Test match pushed the Proteas to an innings win against the West Indies. Even when St George’s Park hosted the Boxing Day Test for the first time since 1992, there wasn’t a change of fortunes as the Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels and Fidel Edwards conspired to send the hosts spiralling to a 128-run defeat.

With the Future Tours Programme (FTP) allocating only two matches instead of the normal fare of three for festive-season matches, there is not enough Test cricket going around. The Boxing Day Test was always going to be under threat. Newlands is South Africa’s equivalent of Lord’s and the attendances attest to that, and the weather almost always plays ball. Even though New Zealand and Australia are neighbours, they have not been allocated the December touring spot. Whenever they play Australia, they usually get the late November and early December slot before the other big guns arrive.

New Zealand last played a Boxing Day Test in 1994 in South Africa when countries still wanted to get a piece of the new kids on the block. Australia once dispensed with the New Year’s Day Test in 1997 and they have not done so since. The experiment has to be and will be temporary. Maybe the absence of the Test will teach the Durban faithful to respect the institution presented to them.

Kingsmead may not be the MCG, but it occupies a special place in South African cricket and it has played host to some of the most epic Test cricket in South Africa since 1992. Absence does make the heart grow fonder and maybe the Proteas need to miss the ground in order for them to win there again.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.