Cape Town – Cricket South Africa is currently off the roster, by ministerial decree, when it comes to bidding for hosting rights to any major global tournaments … the only one of the major powers in the sport so hamstrung.
Its coffers not exactly heaving from gate receipts, a situation particularly acute these days at franchise level, I believe the game here could badly do with the stimulus and excitement of one of the regular International Cricket Council limited-overs jamborees being pencilled in for our shores in the short- or medium-term future.
The infrastructure is largely in place, albeit that some of it would require a revitalising lick of paint and perhaps a review of one or two slightly tired-looking pitch tables.
South Africa has been ignored, for various reasons, for any of the World Cup, World Twenty20 or Champions Trophy events since hosting the last-named one in 2009, albeit that it has staged all three to some acclaim.
There have been whispers in recent weeks that the country is considered an attractive option in the event that an “extra” World T20 is squeezed in during 2018 following the popularity of the latest one in India earlier this year.
But CSA have their hands tied at present, given that they are one of several national administrative sports bodies forbidden from bidding for international events because of Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s much-debated “stop” order – citing what he branded an unacceptably slow pace of transformation.
Whether by conscious quest or not, the national side fielded eight players of colour (72.7 percent of a team) for the first time, and two of them black African, for Tuesday’s Guyana-staged fixture against Australia in the Caribbean ODI triangular series.
Helped by the fact that once-staple pacemen like Dale Steyn – supposedly “rested” for this venture in anticipation of busy Test activity later in the year – and Morne Morkel (not picked under the spin-friendly conditions) have been absent from the recent mix, South Africa’s entire five-pronged attack was made up of players of colour.
Featuring a similarly ground-breaking three specialist spinners (Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso and debutant Tabraiz Shamsi), they successfully defended a lean total of 189 for nine to beat their arch-rivals by 47 runs and roar back into contention in the series after a start-out loss to West Indies.
Although all the bowlers shone, main honours statistically (3/13) went to Kagiso Rabada, the outstanding 21-year-old strike prospect, whilst in the batting department the oft-maligned Farhaan Behardien earned the player-of-the-match laurel for his measured 62 as wickets toppled all around him.
The Proteas may not consistently stay with quite such a “representative” XI as the tournament shifts to venues – in St Kitts and Barbados – where pace could play a bigger role and men like Kyle Abbott and Morkel thus come back into contention.
Nor is there any guarantee that they are back on some sort of irresistible, winning roll; things look a little more volatile than that.
But it was a heart-warming development nevertheless to see South Africa whip Australia – the World Cup-holders and top-ranked side on the current ICC ladder – with a team so much more reflective of national demographics than in the past.
Developments like Tuesday’s do plenty to suggest that CSA is at least “getting there” in expanding the game’s appeal and participation levels throughout communities in South Africa.
The normally vocally expansive Mbalula – it would be nice to think he was watching -- had been surprisingly muted at the time of writing since the landmark result.
Might it be asking too much to expect him to either lift or at least significantly ease his muzzling order on CSA aspirations, in the interests of the game’s broader well-being in the country?
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