South Africa would not have got much by opposing the Big Three’s plans, and have instead won a bit

2014-02-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — They say you should never answer a question with a question but — and how we know it, in the cynical modern world of cricket — rules are there to be broken.

A not irrelevant inquiry to those bitterly castigating Cricket South Africa for their perceived, last-gasp “surrender” or “betrayal” in crucially voting for wholesale changes in the global game’s governance at the weekend is: where exactly would defiance have left us?

Would joining Pakistan and Sri Lanka (who abstained, incidentally, rather than delivering principled “nays” in the end) in a three-pronged school of dissent against the effective transmission of International Cricket Council authority to the “Big Three” superpowers have had any lasting relevance or virtuousness?

Dream on.

Eventually, somebody else would have been buckled, or some goalposts cynically moved, and the power-shifting proposals rammed through anyway.

Like it or not, from the moment the board supremos of India, England and Australia decided in their self-interested and ego-conscious ways to collaborate in seizing a larger slice of the universal treasure, it was like a mere night-watchman and his arthritic Alsatian trying to stave off the concerted armed raid on the vault … well nigh impossible.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has traditionally been more riddled with corruption, controversy and strife than most — their national team can’t even play at home these days, remember — whilst Sri Lanka Cricket is in a state of particularly abject financial disarray.

Petty and vindictive as so much of current cricket-related politics admittedly is, a fragile CSA alliance with those two Asian countries would have bristled only with spectacular impotence in the greater scheme of things.

CSA president Chris Nenzani would have been only too well aware of this ahead of Saturday’s ICC summit in Singapore: would the best interests of South African cricket really be served by holding out against the change?

Not at all out of character with the way the game of politics is conducted, various moderations, concessions and assurances were sought — and in some notable cases, apparently, achieved — in Nenzani’s pre-meeting personal talks with BCCI ultra-baron N. Srinivasan, soon to assume (in July) an all-powerful post as first ICC Board chairperson.

The end result, in a nutshell, is that South Africa are considered “in” on the restructured party list, even if they will remain disturbingly vulnerable to the whims of the primary trio of new masters.

As one seasoned official put it to me: “If you know you are going to lose in some respects anyway, isn’t it better to go down one-nil or two-nil than six-nil?”

With the commercial-juggernaut Indians, in particular, satisfied with their initial booty from recent developments, it is my understanding that even CSA’s supposedly Srinivasan-loathed CEO Haroon Lorgat (an animosity that stretches back to his days as ICC chief executive) may have his wings unclipped, as it were, and be allowed to continue his domestic role unhindered and without being regarded as an impediment to bilateral harmony between the two countries.

Let’s face it, that would be a pretty enlightening development after widespread mutterings not too many months ago that “India even want to determine who South Africa’s CEOs should be”.

And while the conversion of Future Tours Programme (FTP) agreements into legally binding bilateral agreements raised fears more recently that world cricket will henceforth feature a monotonous procession of major series almost exclusively featuring the incestuous Big Three, it already seems that South Africa (their No. 1 status in Tests not an unhelpful ally) will turn out as a key component in bucking that perception.

In short, the Proteas’ relative drought of activity in recent times — particularly on the Test front — seems about to turn rather ironically into something closer to a flood.

Just for example, it seems any fears that England’s FTP-intended extended visit to South Africa in 2015/16 will be jeopardised under a new itinerary regime are unfounded: it is likely to feature a minimum (repeat, minimum) of four Tests, according to my information.

We may see India back on our soil significantly sooner than we think, and in the next cyclical period between 2015 and 2023 there ought to be no repeat of the controversial whistle-stop tour earlier this summer; later series should be altogether more extensive than that.

The Proteas’ seemingly humdrum trip to Zimbabwe in mid-year may take on a sexier hue with the possible addition of external elements to the limited-overs portion, and let’s just say that generally there should be very little risk of AB de Villiers’s team going short on ODI activity in the lead-up to the World Cup in Australasia early next year.

There may well be fire, also, to accompany the current smoke when it comes to rumours that the Indian Premier League — or at least a good portion of it — may be destined for a second staging here in a few weeks’ time, before things get too autumnal from a domestic weather point of view.

If there really is a deep-rooted anger countrywide about CSA’s decision to climb aboard the “bad-boys bus”, then the cricket public have a funny way of showing it: I didn’t witness too much dissent or black armbands as a full house at Newlands, on a sun-baked Sunday afternoon, revelled in a pulsating final of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge and stretched catering and beverage arrangements to the maximum.

Whatever the morality or otherwise of pending new power arrangements, the Proteas seem destined for a solid period of strength-versus-strength cricket across the formats, unless some new treachery intervenes.

Sometimes, unpopular and undesirable choices simply have to be made in the absence of workable alternatives.

Don’t they?

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