Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The Proteas’ keenly-awaited
tour of England, who are currently ranked No 1 in the Test format, is in danger
of its “main event” status next year being devalued by short-sighted monetary
So says Peter Oborne, chief political
commentator for the London-based Daily Telegraph broadsheet and writer of an acclaimed
biography of the late, South African-born cricket icon Basil D’Oliveira.
In a hard-hitting piece this week headlined
“Cricket is being destroyed by this indecent obsession with money”, Oborne
lamented the controversial, abbreviated nature of Australia’s recent tour of South Africa, where the Test mini-series was shared.
“It was an utter tragedy ... with
evenly-matched sides tied at 1-1, we were surely entitled to look forward to
three more contests: thanks to the authorities, there’s no hope of that.
“Matters are set to get worse. Next summer,
this South African team will tour England; it ought to be a brilliant tour,
spread over five Tests.
“England and South Africa are currently the
two best sides in the world (although this is not presently reflected in the official
ICC rankings – Sport24) and at the end of a sublime summer contest, the winners
would have the right to declare themselves world champions.
“But it is not even clear that the visit of
the South Africans is the main event of the summer, which starts off with a
three-Test contest (for England) against West Indies, followed by an
inexplicable series of one-day games against Australia ... which degrades the
significance of the famous Ashes rivalry.
“South Africa only arrive in July, at which
point they will play three hasty Tests, and a string of one-day contests,
before scuttling off in the middle of September.
“Something very valuable has been lost
here, and it is easy to see why. The administrators ... are transfixed by only
one thing – money.”
Oborne said that in the short term, they
stand to make a fortune, but in the longer term “are on course to destroy the
game of cricket itself”.
“There is a very interesting parallel here
with the wider economic and political crisis the world is facing. We have, as a
society, chosen image over substance, and the short term over the long term.
“We have destroyed our long-term capital in
search of easy money ... administrators have started to treat (Test cricket)
with discourtesy bordering on contempt.”
Next year’s three-Test tour will be South
Africa’s shortest of England in many years: there were five in 1998 (England
won 2-1), five in 2003 (drawn 2-2) and four in 2008 (the Proteas won 2-1).
All of them, needless to say, have been
extremely close and competitive.