Cape Town – The disturbing marginalisation of South African
cricket on the international pecking order, particularly in Test terms, is only
going to become increasingly apparent over the next year and beyond.
Enjoy the strength-versus-strength -- yet tragically and revealingly
only two-Test – mini-series in Sri Lanka later this month, folks: it could be
the last truly meaningful challenge the No 2-ranked Proteas have in the
five-day arena for some 15 months.
It has already been known for some time that the
International Cricket Council is to rather sickeningly, depressingly have its
strings pulled from now on by a commercially all-powerful trio of India,
England and Australia, with the remainder of the traditional Test-playing
nations simply scavenging for whatever crumbs may be on offer to them.
Those three will become a convenient little mafia, ensuring
that they play each other as often as possible on a global roster already
tilting increasingly obviously away from the time-honoured, long-form game to
cram in as much one-day cricket in both formats as can be exploited.
Over the past few days, the icy blast of winter to South
African enthusiasts only got more hostile when it became known that the country
will have no initial say on the five-member ICC executive committee.
Wally Edwards (Australia) is the chair, and the other two
permanent members are England (Giles Clarke) and India, represented by the
controversial N Srinivasan who is avowedly no friend of the South African cause
and was recently installed as new ICC chairman.
Two additional members of the panel will be elected every
two years, and tellingly South Africa has no immediate presence: instead West
Indies’ David Cameron and Pakistan’s Najam Sethi crack the nod.
Other committees announced similarly had no South African
representation – we are the only Full Member nation in that impotent position.
And if Test cricket is your preferred cup of tea, don’t
expect much in the way of blue-chip activity for the Proteas until as distant a
date as October 2015 when they supposedly travel to India for a provisionally-intended
three-Test series (cynics are bound to be concerned that it may even be
condensed to two, given India’s preoccupation with the limited-overs game and
antagonism toward SA).
Once back from Sri Lanka, where at least a 1-0 win is apparently
required to take presently ring-rusty South Africa back to the top of the pile,
the Proteas go into a period where ODI activity lopsidedly holds sway –
officially, we will constantly be reminded that it is important for World Cup
preparation – and any Test combat will be curtailed to questionable bursts
against significantly weaker foes.
Beyond Sri Lanka, the Proteas will play a once-off Test in
ninth-ranked Zimbabwe in August, and then the “headline” and only act of our
domestic summer will be ... ta-daah! ... West Indies (eighth and unbudgingly
so) in three Tests at Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
Once admittedly a formidable drawcard, the Caribbean side
have been in the doldrums for not far from 25 years and they have just come off
another lamentable outcome: a 2-1 home defeat to New Zealand.
You do wonder how enthusiastically and effectively CSA will
be able to market the series, when even against agreeably stronger opponents it
can be a challenge to get bums on seats at venues like St George’s Park and
Kingsmead for Tests.
Before the latest setback, the West Indies Test scorecard
reads: lost 2-0 to New Zealand (away), lost 2-0 to India (away); the losing
streak is only broken by a home 2-0 disposal of similarly second-tier Zimbabwe
Nor is a genuinely attractive Test series immediately in the
pipeline for the Proteas after the Australia-New Zealand-staged World Cup in
February and March 2014; a visit to 10th-placed minnows Bangladesh
is next on the intended itinerary for Hashim Amla and company, with the again
limited weight in ranking terms which that expected victory would bring.
In the meantime Australia, a whisker ahead of South Africa
in top spot on the table (and I, for one, am not yet fully convinced of the
mathematical or moral legitimacy of that situation), can look forward to four
Tests against India in their own 2014/15 season.
England? Though wobbling at present in a rebuild phase, a
plump five-Test home series against the Indians is imminent, and it will be
only next season that another lucrative Ashes – hold on, it seems like we’ve
only just done back-to-back ones? – is staged on their soil.
You just get the powerful feeling that it is going to be
deemed inconvenient to have a country like South Africa at the top of the Test
pile – long series will increasingly become the lone preserve of the “big
three” between themselves because they make the most monetary sense – and
devious steps will be taken in scheduling terms to prevent the pesky Proteas
from spoiling that forced equilibrium.
That, I fear, is simply the new, uncaring and crooked world
landscape we will live in.
That will be life at the wonky plastic table.
Push down those serviettes, please, I think they’re about to
blow off ...
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