CSA’s summer PR disaster

2013-11-04 13:30
No New Year's Test for Newlands (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - South Africa’s prime-time home international cricket roster this season only lurches from one catastrophe to another.

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As if the severe curtailment of India’s intended main-event tour of the summer - now just to comprise two Tests and three one-day internationals, controversially all in “northern” areas of the country - wasn’t bad enough, the supposed Plan B of inviting current opponents Pakistan back for some matches here to partially alleviate the shortfall has also seemingly been scuppered.

Domestic chaos in the Pakistan Cricket Board put paid to that particular rescue remedy, although the tour would have been well less than ideal anyway because the Pakistanis were here last season and remain in the throes of combat with the Proteas in the United Arab Emirates: the word “overkill” would certainly have come to mind.

Instead nationwide disenchantment with the whole tawdry situation only increases; it is a public relations disaster because ordinary cricket fans are the ones so glaringly suffering, particularly in the ego-driven squabble between CSA and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Although it is hugely important to note that the players of both proud, premier-level countries hardly warrant resentment over the impasse, it is tempting to suspect that there may be some kind of backlash in attendance terms: enthusiasts are angry and some may well vote with their feet.

The Indian tour of 2013/14 - though only the 2013 part is really now relevant, of course - should be a marketer’s dream, with the visitors’ exciting array of emerging new strokeplayers pitting their skills against the world’s friskiest pace attack on surfaces that should ensure a pretty fair contest.

Instead it looks criminally too compact, with the mere two Tests sticking out like a particularly sore thumb: laughably, the
Indians will be playing more international cricket when they travel to considerably lower-ranked New Zealand soon after the SA safari, which leaves us feeling like the wholly undeserved “sloppy seconds” when you examine it purely from a cricket-savvy point of view.

My own, resolute view is that the credibility of the Test format (already threatened for so many reasons these days) is only being undermined with the No 1-ranked side all too frequently curtailed to obscenely short series while others lower on the ladder feast on four- or five-match rosters.

And all the while the supposed global protector of the game, the International Cricket Council, largely keeps a stony silence on the situation, given its own reluctance to rattle the cage of the increasingly all-powerful BCCI beast.

Meanwhile if CSA was an awkward, fractious place during the discredited latter part of the Gerald Majola era, new divisions may well take root within its ranks over both the suitability of Haroon Lorgat to stay as CEO - given the moneybags Indians’ clear distaste for him - and now also the controversial itinerary of the reworked tour.

Certainly officials in the Western Cape are hopping mad over Newlands, the best-attended venue in the country and favourite Test stamping ground of the national players, crudely and mysteriously being stripped of all three Indian matches initially earmarked for it - including the much-cherished New Year Test.

The minor appeasement carrot chucked the way of the WPCA bosses, when the finally BBCI-approved - or should that read “masterminded”? - itinerary was announced last week, was that CSA was “working on plans to fill the gaps” in the Proteas’ agenda.

But the Pakistan no-show for some matches later this month begs the question of whether any “Plan C” can now be concocted.

Readers of this website have understandably been quick to suggest invitations to various other nations, but the reality is not so simple: just about all of the countries capable of giving South Africa at least some sort of run for their money on our pitches are tied up in rival rosters for the period either leading up to or including the peak Festive Season.

One avenue that CSA may wish to desperately explore now is the Bangladeshi one: they are about to end a three-format series against visitors New Zealand, so are certainly game-sharp, and have earned a meritorious 3-0 sweep of the Black Caps in the ODI portion.

They last visited South Africa in 2008/09, so a fair bit of time has passed since then, and although they have traditionally struggled on our often pace-friendly surfaces, keep in mind that only last year the very New Zealand, so humbled of late, beat the Proteas 2-1 in ODIs right here.

What price, say, a T20-only mini-series against Bangladesh, heavily favouring the Cape coastal venues of Newlands and St George’s Park?

They say the shorter the format, the closer teams come together in competitiveness terms, and such a series would also be featuring the first-time hosts of the next ICC World Twenty20 in March.

Desperate times, desperate measures, and all that ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing 

Read more on:    csa  |  cricket

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