Instead of a traditional Boxing Day Test, South Africa will play a T20 against New Zealand on 26 December. It’s not ideal, but it is crafty. By ANT SIMS
Cricket South Africa has swapped the traditional Boxing Day Test with a Twenty20 international for the summer of 2012-13. The schedule for the summer is jam-packed, featuring three T20s, two Tests and three ODIs against New Zealand, followed by three Tests, three T20s and five ODIs against Pakistan.
While outrage is brewing over the scrapping of the Test, South Africa was only ever scheduled to play two Tests against New Zealand, as stipulated in the Future Tours Programme by the ICC. It’s not like a Test has been done away with in favour of Twenty20 cricket. The Tests will still played, just a bit later.
Factors considered in the decision included bringing cricket to associate venues, commercial success and what is the best overall scheduling option.
“We considered a number of reasons when scheduling this summer. It’s important we take into account what is in the best interest of the Proteas, and we have to look at the commercial success of such a tour and how to fairly balance the schedule of a touring team,” CSA acting CEO Jacques Faul told The Daily Maverick.
“With all these factors considered, it just ended up that we did it this way.”
Last season was a tremendous success in terms of attendance at smaller venues around the country, with the likes of East London and Paarl attracting around 25,000 spectators for the ODIs they hosted. While Faul insists it’s not entirely a monetary decision, finances certainly did play a role in the scheduling.
“It might be a profitable decision, but we’re by no means negative about the Boxing Day Test. It will be implemented again in future. It is such a difficult balancing act. It’s also good TV content over this period where TV is a good revenue stream for us too,” Faul said.
“It certainly hasn’t been an easy decision. We definitely felt like we want a Boxing Day Test, but it’s been really difficult to try and balance all these priorities.
“We really hope that this scheduling won’t have too big of an impact on the tradition of Boxing Day Tests, and we hope that it will return next year. By no means should it be interpreted as doing away with the Boxing Day Test for good. It was just a better scheduling option for this year’s itinerary. It will be a very sad day when we do away with this tradition completely.”
Boxing Day and Tests go together like tabloids and rumours, and while the outcry from those who see it as a must-have tradition will be fierce, tradition doesn’t pay the bills.
Attendance has been somewhat poor at Boxing Day Tests over the last few years. While the first and second day are generally well attended, crowd numbers dwindle from day three onwards. Even more so when teams who will most likely struggle in South African conditions come knocking.
New Zealand will have a tough time against South Africa in Tests, but they can compete in the shorter format of the game. That means the festive period will be filled with good quality cricket at venues which will most likely sell-out, allowing optimal profits from all potential revenue streams.
With the success of the games that were held at smaller venues last season, it’s a ballsy move by the CSA brains trust. It’s a decision for which they will no doubt cop some serious flak, but it’s a good move commercially. Cricket is a business, and like all businesses in a tough economic climate, it needs to ensure that it optimises profit to best of its abilities.
Traditional sentiment towards Boxing Day Test is a reality, and it’s fine. And, with this in mind, the scrapping of the Test is not ideal. But it’s a potentially profitable decision.
Besides, it’s not like South Africa ever wins on Boxing Day anymore. DM
South African summer schedule
New Zealand in South Africa 2012-13:
21/12/12 1st T20, Durban
23/12/12 2nd T20, East London
26/12/12 3rd T20, Port Elizabeth
02–06/01/13 1st Test, Cape Town
11–15/01/13 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth
19/01/13 1st ODI, Paarl
22/01/13 2nd ODI, Kimberley
25/01/13 3rd ODI, Potchefstroom
Pakistan in South Africa 2012-13:
01–05/02/13 1st Test, Johannesburg
14–18/02/13 2nd Test, Cape Town
22–26/02/13 3rd Test, Centurion
01/03/13 1st T20, Durban
03/03/13 2nd T20, Centurion
10/03/13 1st ODI, Bloemfontein
15/03/13 2nd ODI, Centurion
17/03/13 3rd ODI, Johannesburg
21/03/13 4th ODI, Durban
24/03/13 5th ODI, Benoni
Photo: The Proteas (REUTERS)