Colin Bryden

A true test for Test cricket

2010-12-10 08:52
Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden
In Soccer and Rugby World Cups, matches for third place are almost invariably among the least interesting and soonest-forgotten of contests.
It’s not like that in Test cricket.
If you had to tell an English or Australian supporter that they are playing for third place on the world rankings they would probably tell you they don’t give a fig. The battle for the Ashes ignites a consuming passion.
Tell those same fans that the battle between the world’s top two sides starts next week when India take on South Africa at Centurion and they might well say, “So what?”
I just hope South Africans can mount something approaching the enthusiasm for the forthcoming home Tests that has been shown by the Aussies and the visiting England supporters. It has been wonderful to watch cricket played on great grounds in front of packed crowds.
There’s no doubt in my mind that a big crowd validates performances on the field.
When South Africa played Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates recently it was hard to work up any real enthusiasm, partly because the pitches were so lifeless but also because the atmosphere seemed so sterile, with only a handful of supporters scattered around vast arenas.
It reminded me of a Border cricketer many years ago, who looked out at a deserted Wanderers Stadium before a match against Transvaal 'B'. “Wow, we’re playing in front of 30 000 seats,” he said.
I am sure the Tests in South Africa will be watched by millions of television viewers in India - and hopefully enough South Africans will go to the grounds to create an appropriate atmosphere for what should be a fascinating series.
There are all sorts of intriguing match-ups but none more exciting than the battle between South Africa’s outstanding fast bowlers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and a star-studded Indian batting line-up. It will almost certainly be the last chance to see the great Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in action in this country.
Centurion is a great place for cricket watching, prices are low, the match starts on a public holiday and days three and four are over a weekend.
It will be a fascinating barometer of Test cricket’s place in the South African sporting psyche.

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual.

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