Mabhida still best for soccer?

2011-01-10 12:58

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Purpose-built for the soccer World Cup, although versatile within reason, some commentators have been gushing that Sunday’s maiden cricket experience at Moses Mabhiba Stadium is worth repeating.

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I watched it on television and, by all accounts, it was a vibrant day – aided by the essential Bollywood injection, mind - and a fitting send-off for Makhaya Ntini, one of the South African game’s favourite and most poignant sons.

Cricket South Africa had marketed and hyped the occasion – officially, questionably a Twenty20 international but clearly less orthodox than that – to a quite unprecedented degree, and we are led to believe that they got their much-desired sell-out and thus record domestic once-off audience for the sport.

For the record, India won by 21 runs but few, including several smiling, bantering participants, seemed to care too greatly about the outcome – the match oozed sentimentality and a relaxed, carnival vibe and was light years shy of the intensity seen during the majestic Test series between these superpowers just before it.

Mind you, the Indians were in no special mood to give the match’s supposedly central figure any charity: if this was really a football-style testimonial, aren’t you supposed to let the goodbye boy run around the proverbial goalkeeper for a beautifully stage-managed “hat-trick”?

Instead Makkie got thumped for 46 runs in his four overs, which went a long way, actually, to ensuring that India currently boast having won more cricket matches on their South African safari than they have lost: the more serious business of the five-game ODI series is the Proteas’ opportunity to turn that mildly disconcerting state of affairs around.

In fairness, let’s not forget that T20 was never Ntini’s strongest suit: he sports an economy rate of just under 10 runs to the over from 10 appearances in the format and I, for one, far prefer to harbour memories of his enormous durability, relish and athleticism in the Test arena at the height of his powers.

At least he may now be at peace with himself at last that quitting international cricket altogether is the right thing for him at 33: there were some rumblings last summer that he felt prematurely marginalised and was even suggesting some sinister undertones.

Former coach Mickey Arthur makes specific reference to the subject in his new book “Taking the Mickey”, expressing his passionate indignation that Ntini, he believed, had implied racism on the part of himself and national captain Graeme Smith in his gradual fading from the Proteas scene.

If Sunday showed one thing, in Ntini’s case like so many others in sport, it is that the perfectly natural phenomenon of ageing cannot be reversed -- even if somebody like Jacques Kallis shows freakish signs to the contrary with staggering regularity.

Also in the Mdingi Express’s defence, the square boundaries at the Moses Mabhida were predictably and painfully small, meaning a mishit might land up in Row M, and the pitch was a threat only to shins and kneecaps from a bounce point of view - thus all but eliminating a once spicy string to Ntini’s bow.

In terms of the actual mechanics of cricket, the whole experience somehow struck me as uncannily parallel to one of those rather soulless, synthetic “New Zealand rugby stadium” environments for the game, even down to the rather leaden skies.

Based on this experience, should the Mabhida Stadium magically morph into some sort of new national hub for T20 cricket?

I don’t think so.

 Once our goose pimples have settled, and the iconic Makhaya Ntini has begun his stated quest to “move on with my life and help people across a wider spectrum”, I prefer to think sanity will prevail.

After all, just down the road Durban boasts a specialist cricket venue of some renown and tradition.

It is called Kingsmead, and it is, not unimportantly, an oval ...


  • CharlSkeptic - 2011-01-10 13:11

    As many exhibtion matches as possible should be played at MM stadium to try and save the white elephant. Real cricket matches must be played at Kingsmead.

  • Jules - 2011-01-10 13:14

    your argument is hardly compelling

  • Limpopoist - 2011-01-10 13:15

    Thus what i was asking myself too.Moses Mabhida stadium management are on the OPERATION VAT ALLES.,the stadium was built for soccer,but they just want host every events rugby now cricket then what ,hookey,tennies softball ,diphalafala etc....

      MrMM - 2011-01-11 13:04

      is it such a bad thing would u rather have the stadiums gathering dust or being used to all capabilities, look at Green Point stadium beautiful, but not doing much, why cant they used this initiative on all stadiums, even tho they were built for the WC whats the harm in them being used for other events as well

  • - 2011-01-10 13:20

    The pitch was awful, it was a mickey mouse game, and not really that exciting.

      scorpio - 2011-01-10 13:42

      The pitch was terrible - no doubt about that. Despite all the praises, this stadium will never amount to much for cricket. Durban is stuck with a R 3,8 Billion white elephant I'm afraid

      T-man - 2011-01-10 14:06

      What do mean by stuck Scorpio

      Tieneke - 2011-01-10 18:36

      The pitch was not a good pitch and what a waste of a T20 match, but they rest was fun......

  • dilligaf - 2011-01-10 13:21

    And perhaps in future we can avoid mixing up the ANC's birthday politics and cricket. What did that awards ceremony have to do with cricket ?

      Terence - 2011-01-10 13:38

      Exactly. The only crowd reaction to the "Political" awards was a cheer for Jonty Rhodes, the recipients and the rest of the executives (including JZ) did not even get a hand clap.

  • Lwazi - 2011-01-10 13:30

    Rob, your reasons for questioning this move remain unclear. You mentioned that the boundaries are short but I didn't think this was a problem, espcially for 20/20 cricket. I actually think it's a good move for the future but can they please make sure that the pitch is up to standard. That pitch was way below the required standard and spoiled the game.

      Sedick - 2011-01-10 14:21

      the pitch will never be "up to standard". It is a soccer ground after all........

  • BlackSwan - 2011-01-10 13:42

    Cricket - if you can call it that - was crap. The venue was suited for the kitsch afterwards. Next time - PLEASE find an announcer that can actually read and pronounce the names correctly. All in all fitting for an ANC showcase

  • Peter D - 2011-01-10 14:08

    Actually the Mabhida Stadium is more oval than it is rectangular as there were plans to build an athletics track around the field. To my mind this makes it mores suitable for cricket and athletics than soccer or rugby. Kingspark has a great atmosphere for watching rugby, as spectators are close to the players and I would guess the same could be said for watching soccer!

  • mupet-killer - 2011-01-10 14:12


      Alan - 2011-01-12 14:00

      why bother. the Newlands test was the only one that was even close to being full. Pretoria and Durban tests both had huge banks of empty seats. But then the other Newlands is the only rugby stadium that can sell out. Watch any S14(15) or CC game at Loftus, Kings Park etc same story, empty seats everywhere (we wont even mention Bloem that cant sell 40,000 Bok test tickets). Not even semi finals can sell out... pathetic effort... Cape Town fans are the only true sports fans is SA.. rest are just fat couch spuds!

  • Shonilanga - 2011-01-10 14:12

    20 over cricket games should be left for school boys. 50 over cricket is superficial and attracts certain girls and other non cricketers to the stadium where they get drunk and over excited. Test cricket is just that - a real test. Just because there is often no clear winner it is shunned by those who require instant gratification. The subtleties are however the stuff that makes for legend. Give the frivolity to the frivolous but please ensure that Test games don't become just a memory.

      CharlSkeptic - 2011-01-10 15:36

      lol... I also love test cricket, but, seriously, "certain girls"? wtf do you mean by that?? LOL

  • dannybhoi - 2011-01-10 14:13

    I worked for Supersport on the production - the stadium is not suited at all to television coverage! Cricket is a specialist sport that requires specialist facilities at International level. It is a football stadium - it should be used as such. Add to that, the attitude of the Durban municipal officials that run the stadium.

      Greg - 2011-01-10 14:28

      Please explain what "specialist facilities" cricket needs.

      BlackSwan - 2011-01-10 15:28

      Bleddie agent your bosses will fire u

      dannybhoi - 2011-01-11 08:48

      Start with the field itself - you need an oval to begin with, a particular type of grass for the ball to glide over, a wicket square that permits various types of wickets. The sight screens, etc etc. Cricket is a specialist sport - that is why there are specialist stadiums - think about the MCG, SCG, Lords, Wanderers. A football stadium is not a cricket stadium!

      ME - 2011-01-11 11:48

      Dumb Dannybhoi- you should say "the stadium is not suited to cricket tv coverage" not a general statement about tv coverage. Wonder how supersport employed you in the first place. U should be working for SABC Sport.

  • mckenzierodney - 2011-01-10 14:20

    Rob,I"m from Durban and am massively proud of the stadium.We can see it from just about everywhere in the city and it's now recognisable world wide -and I absolutely agree with you,it's NOT for cricket,not even the crap 20/20 version that is called cricket.Your New Zealand comparison is apt and that's even more of reason not repeat the exercise,who would want to emulate that two bob crowd.Keep it at Kingsmead!!

      MrMM - 2011-01-11 13:19

      I'm from JHB one thing I will say from standing at the top of it, is that u guys have a beautiful stadium

  • Greg - 2011-01-10 14:30

    I'm afraid there's nothing in the article that's compelling enough to argue that the venue was poor. Typically written by someone from there couch who wasn't there to experience the atmosphere.

      BlackSwan - 2011-01-10 17:27

      OK Greg - the venue was poor - you also know that

  • Hendrik - 2011-01-10 14:55

    I agree. Why must other sports (rugby and cricket) share the responsibility of the soccer stadiums.

      crazydude - 2011-01-10 15:06

      Share the repsonibility? There is no 'cricket venue' in SA which can hold as many people as Moses Mabhida. Using the stadium allowed more people to watch, and for a concert to be held. Australia will also be hosting T20s in Stadium Australia, their 2000 Olympic Stadium. Most NZ stadiums are cross use for football/rugby and cricket.

      Duke - 2011-01-10 18:01

      @crazydude... The Aussies were smart and built their facilities so they can host various sports. We did not. Trying cricket there and forcing rugby in. What's next....polo?

      crazydude - 2011-01-10 20:47

      @Duke, do you know that Moses Mabhida is built to the same specs as Stadium Australia? Both are designed as Olympic Stadiums. MM was designed to one day have a track around the football field. Before the track goes in the field is large enough to allow for a cricket match. The Aussies removed their track after the 2000 Olympics.

  • Eddie - 2011-01-10 17:28

    As great as it may be to see a full stadium in full cry, the Moses Mabhida stadium lacks those crucial elements that has made cricket one of South Africa's favourite pass times, nl. grass embankments, The Oaks, Castle Corner, family picknicks, youngsters playing cricket next to the field while their heros are playing on the field. I hope we don't lose this altogether.

  • Duke - 2011-01-10 18:06

    What a lot of people missed to factor in, is that a large portion of the "SA Indians" were there for the after match Bollywood show...the 150 year celebration plus its still holiday season. Agree with Eddie.

  • richietarr - 2011-01-11 07:27

    All the comments below irk me to no-end. Fact of the matter is: 45000 people watched the game (the biggest crowd EVER for a cricket game in Africa). Yes the cricket was sub-standard but as a spectacle it was great, which to be honest is all T20 is, a spectacle. It will never replace the true forms of the game but it puts bums on seats. Well done CSA and eThekwini for trying to avoid the 'White Elephant' syndrome. At least MM stadium is cross-functional (swing bridge, cable car, arch climb) and can bring in revenue. Look at Cape Town Stadium - 2 or 3 music concerts a year and 1 or 2 international soccer games. Hardly justifies the billions spent on it.

      richietarr - 2011-01-11 07:28

      substitute "below" for "above".

      MrMM - 2011-01-11 13:28

      well said, I or anyone else for that matter couldnt have put it better, USE THE STADIUMS,

  • Rajty - 2011-01-11 12:52

    As usual.....the fickle Saffers can't deal with the change...I for one thought it was brilliant- it took our cricket to the 21st century for a change...and although the pitch was not great, that little issue can be resolved. Kingsmead is old, grimmy and so yesterday.....lets move forward for a change. Cape Town- wake up and smell the coffee.

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