Lean times loom for SA cricket

2011-12-07 13:25

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – As if the continued, widely-publicised exposure of its financial irregularities isn’t enough, Cricket South Africa faces serious other challenges over the next year or so regarding the vitality of the game itself.

Its image ever more battered as the Nicholson Inquiry runs its course, and a recessionary economic climate hardly helping matters, CSA has the unenviable task – although their marketing and public relations strategy is usually energetic and often effective – of trying to stimulate interest in international itineraries which, frankly, don’t get the domestic blood pumping.

I am aware that various commercial partners and stakeholders in South African cricket are at the very least “nervous” about a 15-month home trot for the Proteas, starting very shortly, that embraces visits by Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan respectively – none of them currently considered “top-tier” attractions in this country.

The fifth-ranked Lankans, hampered by injuries among their already ho-hum pace bowling stock, open their tour with a three-day fixture against a SA Invitation XI at Benoni on Friday, before moving on to three holiday-season Tests at Centurion, Kingsmead and Newlands respectively.

Many cricket fans are still lamenting the criminally condensed series against Australia -- done and dusted in off-peak early summer - and that dissatisfaction could well translate into modest gates, at best, for good parts of the Lankan Test itinerary.

It is hard to envisage bumper crowds at Centurion before Christmas, though weekends on the agreeable grass banks can prove popular if cumulus clouds stay away, and the Boxing Day encounter at Kingsmead may similarly struggle for bums on seats, especially with the potentially unfavourable weather and light issues (arguably aggravated by overly pedantic umpires?) always lurking nearby.

The Cape Town Test, particularly if it happens to be decisive – although there are no guarantees of that, given Sri Lanka’s lamentable Test track record in South Africa – shapes up as the most atmospheric, as always, given the iconic New Year billing and the public relish in that city for the Test format, usually regardless of opposition.

Even at Newlands, though, the blue-chip annual fixture these days only begins on January 3, because of the mandatory full three-day gap between Tests, meaning that the often gold-mine day of “Tweede Nuwejaar” (January 2) is bypassed and some people go back to work immediately thereafter.

The five-match ODI portion of the tour could also be said to face certain hazards, even if one-day cricket is generally a stronger suit for the 2011 World Cup-finalist Lankans.

That is because CSA, in a move that should perhaps not automatically be condemned, has seen fit to bravely schedule the lion’s share of the 50-overs games at smaller centres like Paarl, East London and Kimberley.

At least the cricketing gospel is being spread, but it nevertheless remains to be seen whether the public in those parts respond to a meaningful extent to the novelty of international cricket in their usually sleepy hollows.

If gate receipts do prove to be lean against Sri Lanka, particularly in the Tests, similarly ominous issues seem likely to present themselves when next season’s respective visitors to South Africa are New Zealand (ranked eighth in Tests and seventh in ODIs) and then, beyond the holiday period, Pakistan (sixth and fifth on the ICC ladders at present).

The Proteas are due to play another of those disliked two-Test series against the Black Caps, who are gritty and sometimes stubborn but continue to lack Hadlee-esque individuals in modern times, and then three against the Pakistanis, with plenty of limited-overs activity obviously thrown in for good measure.

While Pakistan always unearth some ridiculously gifted individuals, they have been largely innocuous as a collective force for many years and also labour more greatly than most under the shadow of match-fixing and political and other upheaval domestically.

Even if the next-generation situation changes for the better over the next few months, neutrals rue the fact that that country’s finest fast bowlers Mohammad Asif – who could probably cut the ball either way off a bed of glue – and Mohammad Amir are mischievously branded “the most lethal prison new-attack attack ever” after the disgrace of their convictions and sentencing on spot-fixing charges.

South Africa, at least, have attractive away assignments over the course of the next year that will keep fans of Graeme Smith’s side close to their televisions if not contemplating travelling for them – three Tests each in England in the middle of 2012 and then Australia in early 2012/13.

But I fancy that keeping home fires burning, for a variety of undermining reasons, will be a very, very tall order until top-tier opposition mercifully returns here with India’s tour in 2013/14.

Ironically, if some “good” does come out of the Sri Lankan, New Zealand and Pakistan visits before that, it may only be to persuade embattled CSA to more forcefully back the lobby campaigning for much greater emphasis on strength-versus-strength Test cricket involving the Proteas, India, England and Australia ...


  • Sargon - 2011-12-07 13:15

    I dont think they get their schedules correct. 2 inclement weather tests against Australia which people want to see, and then a pile against an understrength Sri Lanka which is not going to be so entertaining - During peak holiday season. Suppose its just my personal view though....If it were for me to decide I would have scheduled it the other way around.

      jpcronje - 2011-12-07 13:35

      @Sargon, I do agree with you although the schedule might have been decided on by the ICC. I do not think CSA had much of a say which team we wanted to play at what dates.

      Dax - 2011-12-07 13:36

      I agree, Sri Lanka should have been a 'warm up' series for us as well as the current Aus vs NZ series being a 'warm up' series for the Aussies. Then with both teams better prepared we could have had a bumper summer test series over our summer holidays. As for the forthcoming home series, they really are all ho-hum and I expect that they will, sadly, be poorly supported.

      Tessa - 2011-12-07 13:45

      Australia do not want to give up their very lucrative Boxing Day test at Melbourne in order to play in South Africa over the holiday period. Its a long running problem.

      Jono - 2011-12-07 14:00

      1) Why is everyone writing of Sri-Lanka? I won’t be surprised if they give us a massive run for our money! 2) Why does RSA need warm up games to be prepared for a test series? surely they could of played against each other as a warm up game, we are a "supposedly" cricket nation and for that reason alone I am sure they can get another 11 oaks to play against which is of high quality! And if not, then let the top bowlers bowl for the other team. Stop making excuses why you were not prepared properly. 3) "And a recessionary economic climate hardly helping matters" Are they talking about the lack of money pouring into cricket??? If so that is shocking! Plenty other sports in RSA that get absolutely no freaking funding at all!!! And here they moan about the lack of money they are receiving...more money we put in the more you steal!

  • Tharindu - 2011-12-07 14:01

    I don't agree with "strength-versus-strength Test cricket involving the Proteas, India, England and Australia" statement. Proteas & England were never strong in sub continent. They were poor & pathetic.

      Bill - 2011-12-07 14:14

      India is not so strong outside the subcontinent. Maybe it is time for World cricket to specify what a real test wicket is (a little green and bounce on days 1 & 2, and godd for spin on days 4 & 5)

      Deon - 2011-12-07 14:22

      I disagree, the Proteas has beaten India in India before and last time around ended 1-1 against them (in India).

      Bigrp - 2011-12-07 14:23

      Wise man once said: Rather be thought a fool than opening your mouth (or typing on a public forum) and putting it beyond any doubt...don't care about the Poms, but the last 2 test series played by SA in India (2009/2010 and 2007/2008 seasons) were both drawn 1-1...please explain how this is poor and pathetic?

      Tharindu - 2011-12-08 07:01

      Providing that SA is a grade test team, Hey boys can you recall when SA drew or won a test match in Sri Lankan soil. OH! They are grade test team but they didn’t able to pull off a series win against India (2 home series) or Pakistan (considering they are poor in seam pitches). Aussie’s are the best all round test nation in the world. Eng & SA never able to perform all around the world. I am not saying Sri lanka is a grade test team right now or they did better in SA but don’t under estimate them. They might pull off a magical win.

  • Francois - 2011-12-07 14:20

    I have to say, I wouldn't underestimate any of these 3 teams. We are expected to win all. Even when we play Aus. Doesn't mean the cricket will be any less interesting to watch.

  • Hugh - 2011-12-07 14:20

    I dunno, me? I'm looking forward to it. Get our fat lazy players a bit of time in the middle, then to face England?

  • Tharindu - 2011-12-07 14:27

    What happen to SA when india visited last year. Except Australia other all team are only good @ their home condition. Give a fair wicket for lankan you can see how awesome they are although they are not having best of bawling attack.

      dan8472 - 2011-12-08 12:30

      They do have a bawling attack! It brings tears to my eyes! I cry myself to sleep every time I see it...

  • Paul - 2011-12-07 15:08

    Rather disconcerting to think our Test series in England next year is sponsored by Investec and we have to make do at home with a company of dubious standing that is a purveyor of fish and chips grease.

      Beth - 2011-12-07 18:33

      Have to agree that the current (home series) sponsors are not as elite as SAB, Investec, Standard Bank, but where would our team find themselves if the current sponsors had not come to the fore? Our cricket is already in a very sorry state - so personally, they have actually done SA cricket a huge favour. Again, it makes one wonder why the blue-chip corporates are reluctant; the current Majola situation has not done anything to encourage SA companies to invest in our Cricketers and, in all sincerity, I can understand why.

  • Gerry - 2011-12-07 15:35

    Until current CSA Executive resign, I (and my family and friends) WON'T be attending any matches

  • Nicolaas - 2011-12-07 16:53

    Dear Mr. Houwing, I've wondered in the past why your articles make for such cumbersome reading. After suffering through this one, the answer dawned on me: You appear to labour under the misconception that a full stop can only be used to indicate the end of a paragraph! I would suggest you use this handy little writing aid (full stop) to divide your paragraphs into sentences of digestible length. N H

  • Beth - 2011-12-07 18:09

    Between CSA and the ICC I'm seriously concerned regarding the state of cricket, particularly in this country, but in general world-wide. Why is it that the the Proteas always seem to get the short stick when it comes to the ICC's scheduling for Test Nations. As one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the world for some time now, it's strange that they don't seem to get the lion's share of series as do England, India and Australia. Yes, I'm the first to agree that this lolling about for a few months during the off season is just not on, but why aren't our Adminstrators standing up and asking the questions that the supporters are? I can remember when it was an honour and privilege to represent your county - these days however, it's where any given individual can earn the largest amount of cash. With allegations of players, worldwide, taking bribes, and then the absolute fiasco within the CSA, my passion and support for our lads (Proteas) and the game in general is waning at a rapid rate. It's time the CSA and the ICC ditch the old farts and transgressors and put individuals with strong ethics and morals who will do what is really good for the game. As we all know, the rot starts at the top and filters down. Remember CSA and all Cricketin Bodies worldwide, it is the fans who, indirectly pay your salaries. If we can't trust you, we sure as hell aren't going to support you,,,,

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