The international cricket season is upon us again, and the Australian tour of South Africa is about to start, but PAUL BERKOWITZ is really grumpy, and he’s blaming it on Cricket South Africa for hogging headlines with issues that have zilch to do with the sport.
Not that you’d know it, since Cricket South Africa (CSA) has selfishly hogged the sports headlines for all the wrong, non-sports-related reasons. It’s been a horror movie of a year for CSA with The Bonus Scandal That Would Not Die as its working title.
The scandal has left a bitter taste in most cricket fans’ mouths and could still result in lower turnouts for some of the upcoming international matches. It’s already hurting CSA commercially as potential sponsors shun the national team on the eve of the 2011/12 Australian tour to South Africa. CSA has decided to award sponsorship rights to a charity, the Make A Difference (MAD) Foundation. Yes, the South African T20 team will be sponsored by the MAD Foundation, at least for the Australia series. You really can’t make this stuff up.
The immortal Tom Lehrer once said that political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, I can tell you that many sports humorists will have to seek early retirement if the current CSA administration continues with its crazy shenanigans.
Let’s move swiftly along to the upcoming summer itinerary. The Australian tour of South Africa begins on Thursday in Cape Town with the first of two T20 international matches, followed by three ODIs and two Tests (the full itinerary is here). The T20s will probably be sold out and sales for the tour overall should be good as Australia remains a powerful drawcard. For the moment, even the misadventures of the CSA can’t destroy the fans’ interest in this long rivalry.
A bigger concern is whether the Sri Lanka tour of South Africa will suffer from a lack of interest. This tour follows the Australian one and will consist of three Tests over the December holidays to be followed by five ODIs through January. Attendance at the Tests should be decent, but four of the ODIs are at less-popular grounds (Paarl, East London, Bloemfontein and Kimberley) and bums on seats may suffer.
Against this less-than-auspicious backdrop South Africa chose Hashim Amla to lead the Proteas in the T20 and ODI games. A few people will be scratching their heads at this choice; many of us think this is long-overdue. Amla wasn’t management’s first choice, however, and has only been given the job as a stand-in for AB de Villiers, who is injured.
Both teams are relatively young, with most of the players under 31 years old, but the Australians in particular have made a radical break with their old guard and are looking to build a team for the future. To that end they’ve included 18-year-old Pat Cummins (who looks like he could definitely handle Justin Bieber in a one-on-one), 19-year-old Mitchell Marsh (son of Geoff, brother of Shaun) and 21-year-old James Pattinson (who is ginger, and looks set to continue the proud tradition of stupid hairstyles in cricket). You can have a closer look at mugshots of the enemy here.
2011 is turning into an annus horribilis for South African sport; two sharp exits from two World Cups, a national soccer team that can’t score or count, and now a cricket administration that could give its Pakistani, West Indian and Sri Lankan counterparts a masterclass in Maladministration 101. It’s completely unrealistic to hope for a respite out in the middle of the oval, but sport isn’t for the realistic or the sensible. We’ll see you at the Wanderers on Sunday. I’ll be the one with the Gerald Majola doll and the pins. DM
All tortoises are actually turtles. Some turtles however are not tortoises.