SA-India crisis barely tackled
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
The SuperSport2 weekly cricket magazine show Inside Edge has had sustainability issues at times, so when it gets the opportunity to confront a true hot potato, you’d expect it to want to get stuck in with relish, wouldn’t you?
It was with some surprise on Tuesday, then, that I tuned in to discover that arguably South African cricket’s biggest pre-summer crisis of the post-isolation era - the ructions around a potentially heavily curtailed peak-time tour here by India - assumed anything but centre stage.
Instead of a dramatic, hard-nosed intro quickly summing up the potential damage to the game in this country if the visit is suddenly slashed to less than half its intended itinerary, it was as if all was hunky-dory with the world.
Normal front man Mpumelelo Mbangwa being in Zimbabwe for their Test series against Pakistan, Derek Alberts anchored the show and clearly no urgent, issue-based adjustment had been made to the mix: studio guests were national player JP Duminy backed up by now regular SuperSport pundit HD Ackerman.
On any other day, kicking off the programme with someone like Duminy as prime focus would be fine. And as with so many current players - albeit regrettably so often primed not to rock the boat in any way - he came across pleasantly and articulately.
But it was only at about the midway mark of the show that Alberts, presumably governed in terms of order of business by the wishes of a producer, belatedly and fairly cursorily raised the BCCI-CSA fiasco; Ackerman rightly lamented the fact that the Proteas, No 1-ranked in Tests, seemed set to draw yet another short straw over length of series (or rather lack thereof) in the format.
Certainly judging by weight of public comments traffic following stories I and others have penned this week on sports/news websites over the Indian party-spoiling manoeuvres, it is an emotional and vexing matter.
Inside Edge had the opportunity to grab the bull by the horns from a TV point of view and, for whatever reason, didn’t on the night.
There is still an opportunity to make amends, I suppose, as the matter is far from done and dusted, but some critical questions to key local administrators - or even former ones, if the incumbents keep ducking and diving? - and perhaps even a video hook-up or something to India seem firmly warranted.
Inside Edge still has time to grab the ball and run with it ...Rob’s Awesome Foursome1. Australia v South Africa, Castle Rugby Championship
Brisbane, Saturday 12:05, M-Net, SS1, SHD
A week or so ago I was feeling reasonably chipper about the Boks’ chances of winning this one – yes, despite the much talked-about Brisbane bogey – and advancing to a likely first encounter of the season with the All Blacks equal with them as an unbeaten side in the competition. (It would only raise the stakes next week ever more appealingly.) Since then, I admit to a renewed sense of trepidation, given the very clearly pragmatic game-plan South Africa intend employing. If we reinvent the wheel and win ... then great! But it seems clear that the Bok forwards are going to have to build a very significant bridgehead for the jinx to be broken and Morne Steyn to be often enough within striking distance of the posts. Ouch, it’s Oz by three for me ... but hopefully a wonderful surprise looming? 2. South Africa v Botswana, World Cup soccer qualifier
Durban, Saturday 15:30, SABC1
Just a reminder of why SuperSport aren’t also showing Bafana’s crunch, must-win encounter at Moses Mabhida Stadium: they are empowered to screen friendlies, in terms of a deal struck with SAFA at the start of the year, but qualifiers or tournament games remain the sole preserve of national broadcaster the SABC as things stand. Of course it means the inconvenience, for many in this country who aren’t confidently bilingual or trilingual, of listening to SABC’s constantly changing commentators with no option of choosing a single language feed. But at least we all still get to watch the white-knuckle ride (including the fervent hope of a draw or loss for Ethiopia elsewhere) against our landlocked neighbours. If Bafana can’t win, they simply don’t deserve a crack at getting to Brazil, do they? 3. Western Province v Sharks, Currie Cup rugby
Cape Town, Saturday 19:10, M-Net, SS1, SHD
This is easily the standout domestic fixture, on a busy rugby Saturday generally, as the Currie Cup reaches halfway in round-robin terms. It pits the table-topping Sharks away to joint second-placed Province, in what is also a repeat of last year’s final. The blue-and-white champions remain the only unbeaten side, but with two draws and two one-point victories that is a tenuous situation ... and I am just inclined to suspect the in-form Sharks will successfully raid Newlands. They have been much better at rotating players than WP, who continually field over-exposed Super Rugby tight forwards like Steven Kitshoff and De Kock Steenkamp: no wonder these are among Newlands-based players struggling for best form right now.4. England v Australia, 2nd cricket ODI
Manchester, Sunday 11:15, SS5, SHD5
There’s another appealing Sunday attraction for sports fans – the F1 Italian Grand Prix at Monza (14:00, SS6, SHD6, Maximo and CSN) - but for those who want to “veg” in front of the box from a fair bit earlier in the day, this cricket match should do the trick nicely if the weather co-operates at fickle Old Trafford. The game is the second in a five-match series, and the Aussies will be determined to win it after losing the Ashes Test portion 3-0 and then sharing the Twenty20 combat 1-1. Australia are currently ranked second to India in ODIs, with England just a whisker behind in third, so that serves as a pointer to some humdingers, hopefully ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing