Despite the shenanigans

2012-04-07 00:00

THE South African cricket summer limped to a desultory close with two T20 matches at the Wanderers, neither of which reached a satisfactory conclusion for those cricket fans who still believe that T20 cricket is all about fours, sixes and last over finishes. The hastily arranged T20 international with India was dubbed a testimonial of sorts for Jacques Kallis in order to give it some sort of credibility, but in fact it was little more than a trailer for the IPL, which is soon to occupy the prime time slots on local television screens.

Mercifully a highveld thunderstorm brought proceedings to a close at just about yawn time for those viewers not seduced by T20 propaganda. Neither team had looked remotely interested in playing a match that had no conceivable context and no interest as a contest. South Africa was declared the winner to the undiluted joy of the drenched half a dozen or so inebriated spectators that had survived both the deluge and a halting speech from Jacob Zuma.

The ground had scarcely been made tidy when, less than 48 hours later, the captains went out to toss at the start of the provincial T20 final. This, one thought, would at least be a meaningful battle between two local rivals, but it was soon apparent that one team had come to play whereas the other was satisfied with its qualification to play in the lucrative Champions League which is itself a spin-off from the dreaded IPL.

As a result the Titans ran out easy winners over the anything, but rampant Lions. To be fair to the Lions they had played no cricket at all for about two weeks which was poor preparation for a final of any description. They were also led by the jet lagged Alviro Petersen, who batted as though he was playing in a fathers’ match with strict instructions from the headmaster to get out as soon as possible.

In fact the two matches were not without some redeeming features. For me they were the batting of Colin Ingram and Farhaan Berhardien. Ingram has had a rough time of it since he first played for South Africa and did so well in his debut match. He is a pleasing batsman to watch with good balance, sweet timing and a decent array of attractive strokes. He is not yet the finished article, but it is good to know that when Gary Kirsten next goes to the cupboard looking for a batsman he will not find it bare.

In fact alongside if not in front of Ingram in that cupboard will be Behardien, who made an effective debut for his country under tricky circumstances. It is not easy to go out to bat in a T20 match with just four overs left in which to make both an impression and an impact. That Behardien did so said much for his ability to read a game as well as execute under intense personal pressure.

Behardien followed his international debut with another telling performance in the T20 final. He has had a most impressive season for the Titans in all forms of the game. It is also pleasing that Behardien has been recognised by the national selectors after playing well for the Titans for a couple of years. He clearly has a cool head for the game and I will be most surprised if he does not one day play with distinction in both the national Test and ODI teams.

It was also good to see that the Titans’ coach, Mathew Maynard, relied on those players who had got the team to the final and did not sacrifice them to the array of Test players who had become available to his team on their return from New Zealand. It was a lesson for other provinces who have often been disappointed by their Test stars in past finals.

Given the off the field shenanigans that have dominated the headlines throughout the summer, it was hardly surprising that the Majola

scandal claimed another victim before the end of the season when Ray Mali resigned from the board of Cricket South Africa. What Mr Mali should have done, however, is to have tendered his resignation as president of the Gauteng Cricket Board. He was put in charge of that unfortunate organisation by what has become the discredited board of the mother body that was on the wrong side of every aspect of their dispute with the GCB.

It is strange, but not surprising, that Mali saw fit to resign one office and not the other. That he will draw some half million smackeroos during the remainder of his tenure at the helm of the GCB probably made him hesitate from doing the right thing.

In spite of it all, this was a good summer for South African cricket. The team has played well often enough under its new coach to give optimism that the immediate future holds much promise. The great Kallis is with us still, but his retirement, when it happens, need not be feared as the disaster it once might have been.

It is ironic that those who are left on the CSA board for the time being and those departed might well say with some justification that the game in this country has never been in ruder health. The truth is that administrators have rarely had much to do with the quality of the cricket played by those they are chosen to serve, but they do choose captains and coaches. If the recommendations of the Nicholson report are followed we may be in for a new era of responsible and accountable administration, but I am not going to hold my breath.

As for those who have gone, the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado said it best; “they will none of them be missed”.

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