Cricket South Africa once again faces a few uncertain weeks over their summer schedule. This time, the West Indies players, their board and their players’ association are all locked in a bitter pay dispute which has seen the men from the Caribbean abruptly end their tour to India. They are due to tour South Africa in December, but if the stand-off continues, that tour will be under threat. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
For the second summer in a row, South Africa’s cricketing extravaganza is under threat. With less two months to go before international cricket is due to arrive on South African soil, a pay dispute between the West Indies players and their board will leave executives uncomfortable.
Last week, the West Indies pulled out of their tour to India, with one-day internationals and Test matches still to play. The reasons are complex, but this is not a new issue for West Indies cricket. In 2009, they sent a second-string team to tour Australia, and in recent times, board disputes between players have been commonplace and led to strikes, very nearly doing so again before the start of the Indian series.
Proper governance of cricket in the Caribbean has been an issue for years. The ICC has not yet managed it and the latest fiasco has led to the BCCI sending a strong warning to the WI about possible future tours being cancelled. With the BCCI stronghold in the ICC governing quarters, it’s hard to imagine them coming to their rescue this time around. The BCCI have already sent a stern warning about how this debacle could impact on future relations between the two teams. Now, if you are into Schadenfreude, you might be rejoicing. After all, the BCCI themselves bestowed this frustration on Cricket South Africa just last year. But steady on that high horse.
WI cricket and its players will be left to slog it out themselves and Cricket South Africa could suffer as a result. If the dispute is not resolved, there are a few possible scenarios. West Indies could send a weakened team, like they did in 2009, or the tour could be disrupted in its entirety. If the latter happens, South Africa will have to move quickly to find a replacement or risk having a summer with no cricket.
There are a few things to consider here. While Tests are the pinnacle of the game, one-day matches are arguably far more important in the lead-up to the World Cup. They will also be more profitable than a three-day Test against a West Indies third-string team. Another big financial loss is something CSA simply cannot afford.
Tony Cozier has been the first to warn of a possibility of West Indies cricket coming to standstill. He told ESPNCricinfo: “The BCCI are very upset that the West Indies board and the players should have called off the tour at this stage.
“Now, having done that, meaning that this tour is finished, they were scheduled to go to South Africa right after. They’ve got three Test matches in December, five one-day internationals in January and a Twenty20, and then they are scheduled to move straight from South Africa to the World Cup in Australia in New Zealand. I can’t see that happening if the stand-off remains.”
While CSA believes that things will be sorted and the tour will proceed as planned, there certainly is uncertainty over the summer. It is yet another damning indictment of the state of world cricket. South Africa, ranked the number one Test team in the world, already suckles on the hind teat of Test scheduling. It lost one of its marquee Tests – the New Year’s Test – last year. It was replaced by “the Festival of Cricket” which was a fine replacement, but for South Africa to spend another summer with a limited fixture list of Test cricket will be nothing short of a disgrace.
Caution should be taken in fear-mongering over the possible cancellation, but as things stand, it is a real threat.
Failure of the ICC to step in to try to find a resolution, and prevent yet another truncated South African summer, will be the first sign of what many feared would happen when the new world order of cricket was signed earlier in the year.
Cricket is no longer about growing the game and catering for the fans – it’s about power and money, and there will be no mercy for those who step out of line or who cannot stuff the coffers of the powers that be. DM
Photo: The West Indies’ cricket team reacts during the third One Day International cricket match between Australia and the West Indies at Manuka Oval in Canberra, Australia, 06 February 2013. EPA/LUKAS