My bike and me: happily married

Sometimes I cheat on my bike and grab a cheap, empty thrill in the saddle of a rental. I go home and whimper apologies. My bike says fuck you.

Bicycling Magazine

IMG_3029

The author and his obsession. Photograph: Firdose Moonda

TELFORD VICE in Florence

MY bicycle saves my life every day. It’s my only bike and my only vehicle. Gears? They’re for people who want too much to think about. Hills? Bring it; I know them well. Hipster? I’m hip (at least, I like to think so) and I have hips that will need replacing from too much running and riding if I don’t do enough yoga, but I’m too bloody old by half to fake hipsterhood.

My bicycle is a roadster the colour of freshly oxygenated blood. A thing of brilliance called a VanMoof Bambooman carrier is fixed to its North Road handlebars by the hack job of two bits of a leather belt, nuts, bolts and cable ties. A Brooks — which cost me more than the bike — is where my bum goes.

I love my bicycle. If some meteorological madness were to hit my home it would be the only thing I would save on my out. And save it I would.     

What brand is my bike? Haven’t a clue. Once, someone who knows about these things took a look at the brazing and said it might be an old Raleigh. I think it’s as an old bastard, like me: my father was a drug dealer, my mother a fortune teller. They were too busy trying, and failing, to stay out of trouble to get hitched.

My bike was rescued from a fate worse than rust by Emile Kotze — then of Starling & Hero in Woodstock, now of Whippet in Joburg — and resurrected and trucked to Jozi, where I used to live. Four-and-a-half years ago I moved to Cape Town. My bike was happy to go home. It told me so.

My bike has never felt the luridness of lycra. At least, never in our relationship. Cleats? I’ve had a pair since I was a kid. But they’re the kind you wear to play the gods’ own game: baseball.

My bike and I are on the road every day we’re together. But I travel a lot for work and after about a week away I start pining. I try to resist but sometimes the moments of weakness weigh up and I cheat on my bike and grab a cheap, empty thrill in the saddle of a rental. I go home and whimper apologies as abject as they are pathetic. My bike says fuck you.

Before my bike and I got together I was just another frustrated driver stuck in traffic. Bullshit. I, like every other, also frustrated driver around me, wasn’t stuck in traffic — we were the traffic. Now traffic is just something that I used to know.

If you read this magazine regularly and you’ve read this story this far, you know where this is going. I could get on with it and throw all the stats and facts at you: why cycling beats driving on every scorecard you can think of, why humankind’s future will happen on a bike if humankind is to have a future at all, why we’re all going to die horrible, smoggy deaths, our arteries clogged with capitalism, our joints congealed with modern life, our minds mushed by mindlessness delivered on screens, if we don’t get the hell out there and pedal.

And, if I did that and I were you, I would turn the page. 

Because you know all that already. Because you believe all that already, which is different from knowing it. Because probably you are not, like me, car-free having sold the cursed hunk and with it all those petrol, parking, maintenance and licence bills and the daily drudgery of being a motorised hamster on a macadamised wheel going nowhere slowly. Because, even if you want to free yourself from your car, thanks to South Africa’s all but barren public transport landscape you cannot. Because, unless you have the money, Uber isn’t the answer.

So why do I think this article is worth your trouble?

Because I want to share how stoked I am. Because, like any zealot, I want to spread the good news. Because nothing would make make me happier if there were more stoked zealots spreading the good news. Because just a few years ago I didn’t pay bicycles much heed. Because now I couldn’t imagine my life without one. Because together we can change the world. Yes, really.

I realise I’m preaching to the converted, or at least to the quasi-converted. You do, after all, ride a bike — either on a road or off it, in races against other riders or against your own sagging fitness, and maybe sometimes, if the weather’s wonderful and the distance is decent, even to go from A to B to C and back to A.

Sorry if I’ve left any sub-sub-culture of the sub-culture off that list, and sorry also to those who worship their bikes like I do. Thing is, my own conversion has been so complete I find it difficult to understand why everyone doesn’t ride a bike everywhere all the time. So I run out of ideas quickly when I try and think of reasons not to. But I’ll have a go.

Safety?

Don’t be stupid when you’re out there but be assertive, which is a fine balance. I’ve been doored a few times, with spectacular results, at least partly because I was riding too close to the line of parked cars. Happily, all I have to show for my troubles are a slightly dinged Bambooman, a brake lever that looks like it might have been designed by Salvador Dali and redesigned by Uri Geller, and what I suspect was a broken finger.

Now I ride a touch further into the lane, keep a vigilant eye for occupied drivers’ seats, and ignore the occasional idiot hooting behind me. 

If only our drivers were taught the Dutch reach. In the Netherlands you fail your driver’s test if you don’t reach for the latch to open your door using the hand furthest from the door. That way, you naturally turn your head and look down the road before opening the door. 

Being assertive rests on the bulletproof truth that you, the cyclist, belong on the road as much as anyone and anything else. Those who do not want to share the road should stay off it, or go to hell. You won’t get many chances to debate these neanderthals, but when you do here’s your killer blow — this road was here a long time before cars arrived, buddy; so learn to share. 

A keen sense of anticipation is crucial. If you ride behind a minibus taxi know that it will stop frequently and often not where, lawfully, it should. Know that it will lurch into traffic without warning. Know that you can do nothing to change that. But, above all, know that without minibus taxis there would be a lot more motorised morons on our roads. And that minibus taxi drivers tend to be more skilled — and once you get to know those on your routes, respectful of you and your bike and downright chatty at the robots — than the average entitled oaf behind the wheel of an obese 4×4.

Something else that sets Dutch drivers apart is that almost all of them grew up on a bike. That means they have an innate sense of what the cyclist in front of them is going to do. Anticipation works both ways.   

You don’t want to wear a helmet?

I won’t wear a helmet until every driver, passenger, skateboarder, rollerblader and pedestrian does also. There is no logic in requiring people on bikes to be helmeted when people in vehicles that travel exponentially faster are not. And since when are the heads of skateboarders, rollerbladers and pedestrians harder than those of cyclists?

There are not enough bike lanes?

Bike lanes are nice to have but they are not must haves. And they’re dangerous because to separate cyclists from drivers is to allow drivers to regard as truth the nonsense that they own the road. Besides, depressingly often bike lanes are hijacked by cars for parking.

It’s raining. Or too cold, too hot or too windy.

You’ve heard of rain gear. And jackets. Heat? Wind? You’re a cyclist, for fixie’s sake.

I could go on. And on and on. But I’m never going to convince myself that bikes are not the answer and the future and all things wonderful. So go, you good thing. Get out on your road. All of them. All the time.

That’s only the practicalities. The broader point is that my wellbeing is closely tied to my relationship with my bicycle. A while ago, we had to drive for the first time in six months. For an hour. Then, after several hours of work, we would have to drive back. I was keen on taking a train but my wife, also a cyclist but less gung-ho, wasn’t. So we drove.

Less than five minutes in, I felt a hollow, crushing numbness behind my eyes. Our conversation dried up as I constrained my focus to the road. I arrived with a headache, sore knees and a bad attitude. Our drive back was crippled by traffic, and our evening ended in a stupid argument.

I hoped I never had to drive again. Fat chance. We live in a world colonised by cars. So much of our public space has been swallowed by them that we walk what amounts to a tightrope just to cross the road. And we keep adding to the problem: planners think they can solve traffic challenges by widening roads. That’s like thinking you can lose weight by loosening your belt.

My bike agrees with all of the above. We’ve had conversations like these so often that sometimes I think we’re in danger of boring each other. Which somehow never happens. There’s always a hill to get up, or a headwind to tackle, or some oke in lycra trying to walk in cleats to laugh at, or always another poor bike bolted to a coffee shop wall — the not-so-secret handshake of the hipster hangout — to pity.

There’s always life, and we’re living it real. Every day.


Where should you ride a bike? Everywhere! But here are some of the best places to do so:

Paris

“Attenceeo!” That’s not how you spell attention in French, but it is what she said as she rattled across the Pont Notre-Dame yelling her warning – shrill and urgent, her flouncy skirt flouncing for all its worth – of a golden evening this European summer. I will never forget her. The pedestrians duly paid attention, and no untoward contact was made. As never seems to happen in a city where so many people are on bicycles that you wonder why anyone would downgrade to a car. And no-one rides an ugly bike, of course. 

Chandigarh

Yes, in India. But in India’s only planned city, way up north in the Punjab. That means the traffic makes sense even to comparatively mollycoddled, sheltered South Africans. So many vehicles of all descriptions, and then some, are on these clogged roads that a bike isn’t something weird. It’s just another vehicle on the road, and accorded the same respect as all the others. 

London

London’s cyclists tend to be a grim bunch – they are miserable Poms, after all – but you won’t want for bike lanes, hiring options and fellow travellers. And it’s mostly flat. Watch out for black cab drivers, though: they respect nothing and no-one but their own sorry ilk.

Florence

Maybe it’s the cobblestones, or the fact that many of the streets are narrow capillaries, or the hordes of pedestrians, especially in tourist season. But even the most unpracticed urban cyclist is safe as a bet on the All Blacks to beat the Boks in the graceful ooze of movement on the roads of this painfully beautiful city.

Advertisements

Why a city needs a bicycle mayor like a fish needs water

“If we have lower speed requirements, narrower lanes that make drivers feel squashed, that slows them down automatically, and that’s good for all of us.” – Lebogang Mokwena, Cape Town bicycle mayor

14248249320_13c581afd5_o

Lebogang Mokoena wants to get you on your bike.

An abridged version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2018 edition of The Sunday Times 

TELFORD VICE in Florence

LEBOGANG Mokwena sees cycling in black and white. When she’s at Thembelihle High School in Khayelitsha on Friday afternoons, helping to put kids on bikes to go to school and back, and teaching adult women to ride in Mowbray on Saturday mornings, cycling is black.

When she was a spanner’s throw from Parliament in the city centre making her first address as Cape Town’s inaugural bicycle mayor on April 21, the audience was almost entirely white.

It’s part of Mokwena’s mission to join those disparate dots. And a lot more besides. She hopes to turn what for some is a sport, for others transport, and for still others an expression of their hipsterism into an integral part of what it means to live in a city that predates the car by more than 200 years but is dominated by the engine.

“I’ve had one white woman sign up [for classes],” Mokwena says. “The rest are black and a few coloured and Indian. I don’t know if that’s linked to Cape Town and its geography, and how much harder it is to penetrate if you’re from the Flats.

“When I was training to do the [2017] Argus it was interesting to see big pelotons of men — coloured men. Other than the white male community that seems to be the next big, coordinated, organised cycling community in Cape Town.

“Beyond feeling black and white it feels deeply gendered. Everytime I’m cycling — just going to get milk — I’m more likely to see men riding about. Very rarely do I encounter women, and if I do they tend to be white.”

Cycling’s vast peloton includes lycra lovers who look like they’re riding the Tour de France in perpetuity, magnificently muddied mountain bikers, bearded men in checked shirts and skinny jeans on single speeds, those Khayelitsha kids trying to get to school and back, their parents going to work and back or to look for a job, and people like Mokwena going everywhere on a bike, including “to get milk”.

Full disclosure: this reporter, who has never been near lycra, is among the latter and has been #ProudlyCarFree, and happily, for almost a year. My bicycle saves my life every day. Not all of us are that fortunate.

“We can’t discount geography,” Mokwena says. “The further out you live from where you’re likely to get a job or where you actually work, the less likely you are to even contemplate a bicycle as a means of transport.

“But at the heart of society is upward mobility, which is linked to particular sets of material acquisitions. And the car is a big part of it — preferably German, preferably fast.

“Part of our biggest challenge is changing the imagination of the average South African about what success looks like, and that success can look like a R500 secondhand bicycle that allows you to save your money and do different things with your financial resources as opposed to pumping them into a depreciating asset like a car.”

IMG_0182

Today Florence. Tomorrow Cape Town?

Mokwena sounds like a cycling lifer, but she learnt to ride in 2014 as a “broke student in New York”. She grew up bikeless in Sophiatown, where a generation earlier many people would travel to work by pedal power, and in Soweto, where she was, in her own words, “the fattest sedentary chatterbox”.

In 2016 she bought what remains her bike at a Brooklyn jumble sale for US$65 — R820. It has taken her all around New York and Italy, and now Cape Town.

That you could spend R6.3-million on a Trek Butterfly Madone — almost 8 000 times more than Mokwena paid for her bicycle — is a measure of the distance between cycling’s poles.

“And we want to maintain all of it, whatever type of cycling people want to do. But there is something elitist and therefore exclusionary about some cycling circles — what you wear, the cleats, the carbon frame.

“My bicycle has more than paid for itself. Every trip I’m not paying for an Uber or a taxi or a bus, it’s a saving that goes right back to the money I used initially to by the bicycle.

“For the average South African household even R800 is a big ask, so part of our challenge is to think about how we enable more people to gain fairly cheap, subsidised access to a bicycle. That’s not easy but there’s lots of room for corporates to get involved and brandish their logos.”

And for the legions blinkered by their windscreen mentalities to be pissed off about the money and effort cities put into coaxing people to use bicycles instead of cars.

But there’s another, call it a Freedom Charter perspective: that the roads were there long before cars and thus belong to everyone who uses them. All of us pay for them, and cyclists take an exponentially smaller toll on them in terms of space and wear and tear. So, bike lane or no bike lane, get on your bike.

“Infrastructure does not make people more sensitive automatically; more mindful and more respectful of cyclists,” Mokwena says. “You see that in Salt River, how often [bike lanes are] completely disregarded.

“To get more people on the road safely means getting more people on the road safely whether or not there’s designated infrastructure. It’s also cheaper.

“We do already have roads. So painting them to demonstrate that cyclists also have a right to use them is probably cheaper than trying to create an extra few metres for cyclists. This is not a popular view, and I certainly do feel a little bit safer if I’m riding along a cycle path. But it shouldn’t have to take that.

“Often the lanes are not used or they’re completely disregarded by motorists. So changing how motorists think and feel about the roads is really what will help cyclists be safer. It’s not designated lanes only that makes them feel safer.

“But we’re a middle income country. I cannot justify to myself calling for cycle lanes when people don’t have water or a toilet or they don’t have houses.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on the city around cycling infrastructure when the city is under pressure to build social housing. As we meet some of these basic needs we can put much more pressure on the city about cycling infrastructure, but in the meantime the big, core, material concerns of the vast majority of South Africans are far from whether or not there’s a cycle lane. They’re about whether there’s a roof over my head.

“Sometimes the conversation about cycle lanes and special types of traffic lights and redesigning our kerbs forgets the context in which we live. Maybe these things aren’t mutually exclusive but right now I would prefer the city to get social housing closer to the city. 

“For recreational cyclists, it’s a choice — what time and where and how. It’s a choice about blowing as much money as you have to beautify this thing and yourself, and to do all these cycle races that take money to enter.

“For Joe Soap it’s really about livelihoods and making every rand stretch as far as it can go to cover food, lodging, transport, clothing and school fees.”

Not that she foresaw carfree streets, just more fair, less mean streets: “We live in a country where the public transport system is grossly inadequate. So it’s ridiculous to assume that from tomorrow we can have all South Africans either cycling or using public transport.”

“I’m not wielding a bat saying vanquish all motorists. But we have already laid tarred roads, and more of us can use them differently and not just in a four-wheeled vehicle.

“Every time a motorist is more mindful of a cyclist, they’re more mindful of their own safety. If we make the roads safer for cyclists we’re making them safer for everyone who uses them.

“If we have lower speed requirements, narrower lanes that make drivers feel squashed, that slows them down automatically, and that’s good for all of us — pedestrians, motorists as well as cyclists. Because it means that we all travel at a speed that is healthier for the city and means we’re less likely to be reckless. We can share the road better.”

Mokwena is not an elected or an appointed official — “I doubt the city knows I exist,” she said on her first day in the role — but part of the Bicycle Mayor Programme, an advocacy group that has placed people in similar positions in nine other cities around the world, including perhaps unusual outposts like Baroda and Beirut.

Their task, according to the organisation’s website, is to “work with citizens and city stakeholders to ensure all voices are responded to”.

Serving as Cape Town’s bicycle mayor is only part of what Mokwena will be up to in the near future.

“I’m four months pregnant. I can’t imagine stopping cycling. I’m looking for a ‘baby on board’ sign, but I can’t think where I’ll put it on my bike.”

Shohei Ohtani makes baseball fear to tread where cricket has always gone

Garfield Sobers is cricket’s only genuine, unarguable, bulletproof allrounder. Wasim Akram? Bowler. Jacques Kallis? Batsman.

Times SELECT

TELFORD VICE in Florence

A nice young man is scaring the bejaysus out of Major League Baseball (MLB). His name is Shohei Ohtani and — make sure any kids who play Little League are out of the room if you’re reading this aloud — he hits as well as he pitches.

That’s right: he hits as well as he pitches, a fact that is causing shock, horror and not a little amazement from California to Connecticut.

Thereby hangs a lesson for cricket, which is decades behind its American cousin in how to get the best out of its players.

In cricket, Ohtani would not be a phenomenon purely because he is what baseball is calling, quaintly, a “two-way” player. Closer to the truth is that cricketers who are able to bat as well as they are able to bowl have always been rare. Of all the 2 899 men who have played Test cricket, Garfield Sobers is the only genuine, unarguable, bulletproof article. Wasim Akram? Bowler. Jacques Kallis? Batsman.

Fewer allrounders are produced now than ever because T20’s reliance on players who are jacks of all disciplines and masters of none has the equal and opposite effect of making Test cricket invest more heavily in specialists, if only to set itself apart from the terrible infant. One of these decades, if that trend continues, the poles of cricket’s core skills are going to be as far apart as baseball’s.

The 2018 MLB season, in which each team plays at least 162 games, was less than 30 matches old on May 9. But in his first US campaign Ohtani, at 23 already a household name in his native Japan, where he played for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, is attracting the kind of attention reserved for World Series stars.

He has made a decent beginning as a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, winning three of his five games and losing one, allowing 20 hits and 12 runs in 26.1 innings.

So far, so understandable — for Americans. What’s startling them is that Ohtani has also had 20 hits, four of them home runs, in his 60 plate appearances for an average of .333.

The context of all that is that pitchers don’t bat at all during the regular season in the American League (AL), where the Angels play, because they spend so much time and effort pitching and practising pitching that they invariably make awful batters.

Since 1973 in the AL, instead of the pitcher going down looking at or swinging at strikes, a “designated hitter”, or DH, has batted on their behalf in the nine-strong line-up.

In the National League (NL), where pitchers still bat, Jacob de Grom, a right-handed starter for the New York Mets, was at the plate more times than any other pitcher in 2017. But 273 of all the 509 players who took a swing in the NL batted more than De Grom. That’s more than half. Forty-six players didn’t bat at all. They were all pitchers.

Starting pitchers will often take five days’ rest after they play a game, and rarely fewer than three days.

Scandalously, on some of what should be his rest days, Ohtani serves as the Angles’ DH. 

Not since Babe Ruth strode the diamond has something similar happened with any seriousness. Ruth arrived at the Boston Red Sox in 1914 as a pitcher who could bat a bit. A bit became a lot, and by the end of the 1919 season he was no longer pitching regularly — mostly because the Sox could put more bums on seats if Ruth played every day as an outfielder rather than once or twice a week as a pitcher.

Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season, and in the next 15 years as “The Sultan of Swat” built his legend as the home run king, he pitched only 31 innings. In his six years in Boston, he had hurled 1 190.1.

So Ohtani is challenging 99 years — the difference between 1919 and 2018 — of how things have been done in baseball.

It’s early days yet, but his batting average is in the ballpark with that of last season’s AL batting champion, the Houston Astros’ José Altuve, who averaged .346.

If you know anything about big league ’ball, you know what Ohtani is doing is not unlike Galileo daring to suggest the earth isn’t flat.

Such is baseball’s belief in specialists that Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher the game has seen, was paid US$169.6-million over the course of his 18-year career. That’s good money for anyone, much less a player who threw an average of only 14.8 pitches per game as a reliever between 2002 and 2013. 

American high schools aren’t short of baseball players who can bat, can pitch, can field. But that’s how the scouts figure out who has the raw talent to make it to the majors.

After that, it’s each into their own pigeonhole: as pitchers or position players, and position players are parsed further. Outfielders and first-basemen are expected to do the bulk of the hitting, and next in that order come the middle infielders — second-basemen, shortstops and third-basemen. 

Middle infielders especially but also outfielders need plenty of pace around the bases, particularly if they don’t carry big bats. 

Catchers are almost as specialised as pitchers, some of whom will only pitch to their “personal catchers”.

Imagine Kagiso Rabada bowling only when Quinton de Kock is behind the stumps, and Heinrich Klaasen strapping on the pads for everyone else.  

That’s difficult to fathom, but South Africans who remember when sport had seasons and players had real jobs know it used to be feasible to play more than one sport to a high level.

Exhibit A: Errol Stewart, the former South Africa and Dolphins wicketkeeper-batsman and Sharks centre. He is the most recent example in a club that counts Herschelle Gibbs, Peter Kirsten and Gerbrand Grobler among its many members.

But rampant professionalism and specialisation has changed all that, and made the allrounder extinct in that sense and endangered in others.

Much more of that, and one day the kids will have to be sent out of the room before we can talk about that outrageous youngster who bats No. 6 and bowls first change. 

Scary stuff, isn’t it.

From bison steak to swarming tuk-tuks: the crazy beauty of the IPL

“It’s the loudest ground in the world. When they start with ‘ABD’ you can’t hear anything else.” – veteran IPL coach.

IMG_0025

Bangalore’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium during the calm before the storm. Photograph: Telford Vice

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in Bangalore

THE night began amid the twirling ceiling fans, squared dark wood columns, unfancy tables and chairs, and ancient air of Koshy’s, where the waiters are uncles in white coats, where Nehru, Khrushchev and Lizzie, queen of England, have dined, and where it will always be 1940.

An uncle presented a “mixed grill” as if he was serving Lizzie herself. A fried egg glistened atop a curve of sausage, two steaklets — possibly bison in these anti-beef parts — chicken livers, other liver, and a chicken drumstick. Vegetables boiled to within a calorie of their nutritional value bookended one end, apologetic chips the other. 

IMG_0017

Koshy’s, where it will always be 1940. Photograph: Telford Vice

All that and a couple of beers later it was time to walk towards the orchestrated chaos at M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Floodlights beaming through the syrupy air served as radar for a squadron of black kites, whose serrated wings and hooked beaks brought swirling death to a smidgen of the myriad flying insects who had an expectation of under cover of night.   

Down below, all of Bangalore appeared to be shambling gameward. Like the insects above, those on foot were in a hopeless fight with, apparently, all the city’s fossil-fuelled fascists.

An hour earlier, as we passed the team hotel, a thick throng had gathered across the road. Probably they couldn’t spare the equivalent of R150 for the cheapest tickets — the most expensive cost R6 650 — so they waited for their modest second prize: a glimpse of the players as they boarded the bus.

The better heeled packed the stadium to within sight of its 40 000 capacity to watch Royal Challengers Bangalore play Mumbai Indians, getting through the gates, the metal detectors, the body searches, the turnstiles and the narrow passages without pushing and shoving.

IMG_0023

Fans make slow progress towards their seats. Photograph: Telford Vice

Then, as we crested the stairs and saw the neon green field, it hit us.

All you could hear was everything all the time. The wall of noise rose repeatedly to an impossible apex on the command of a relentless announcer who scripted the crowd’s every word, right down to the, “Ooooooooo …” for a play-and-miss.

“It’s the loudest ground in the world,” said a veteran coach on the staff of an Indian Premier League (IPL) outfit. “When they start with ‘ABD’ you can’t hear anything else.”

Alas, AB de Villiers was absent ill. So the most formidable roar of RCB’s innings came the instant Manan Vohra’s dismissal was confirmed. That meant “Virat! Virat! Virat” Kohli was up.

Eardrums were most in danger in the death overs, when it became clearer with every fitful fielder’s desperate dive to stop almost every smote stroke that Bangalore would defend their middling total to maintain thread-thin hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Round midnight, parents carrying slumbering infants joined the claustrophobic shuffle out of the ground. “Just a bit of panic and we could have another Hillsborough,” an Australian among us said.

Police shooed swarming tuk-tuks along Queens Road, one of which had us home and dry, dazzled and deafened, by 1am.

“What the hell just happened,” we didn’t ask each other.

Could anything like it, exponentially smaller and — merciful gods — quieter, happen in South Africa, where the inaugural edition of the T20 Global League (T20GL) suffered an ignominious failure to launch last year?

“I don’t know, but if it does it will work until mediocre players want to be paid more,” the IPL coach said. “I know very ordinary New South Wales players who own three homes.”

Perhaps it was time for bigger ideas: “The Australians might not be too keen because they have the Big Bash, but the southern hemisphere countries should start a T20 equivalent of Super Rugby.”

Whatever. There’s no challenging the dominance of the IPL, a tournament squawked about by 100 television commentators from six countries in five languages besides English. And that in September sold its broadcast rights until 2022 for an amount so massive it defies definition: R310 511 362 687.50.

Russell Adams, a South African, knows all that and more. He ended 10 years in cricket in India as RCB’s commercial, operations and academy vice-president last year when he was appointed the T20GL’s tournament director.

“The corporate or business structure in a sport means holding people accountable for delivery based on key performance indicators,” Adams said.

“[That involves] quality people and service providers and agencies that go beyond the call of duty to ensure delivery for the number one objective: fan experience.

“The success of the IPL is the global appeal of cricket and entertainment, quality world class foreign players, and a format that works regardless of where or when it is played.”

Don’t be fooled by Adams’ coolly expressed sanity. It was crazy out there. Crazy beautiful.

To think the night began at Koshy’s …

Justin Langer is Australia’s new coach. Oh dear …

Once he glued his gloves to his bat handle to sort out grip problems, now he spends a month a year bearded and barefoot.

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Bangalore

SOUTH Africans know all about Justin Langer, some from having had the unpleasant experience of playing against him.

Langer, who has replaced Darren Lehmann as Australia’s coach in the ongoing fallout from the ball-tampering debacle, won 11 of his 105 Test caps against the South Africans — some of whom remember him for his incessant and unimaginatively ugly sledging more than his fiercely determined batting.

But all cricketminded South Africans will remember Langer more favourably for what he didn’t do at the Wanderers in April 2006: bat.

Reports from Australia say Langer’s teammates would avoid him if he they thought he was about to ask them to join him for additional training because he would keep going until they were close to exhaustion, but also in light of the relentless seriousness he brought to everything he did.

His obsessive approach led him to glue his gloves to his bat handle to sort out problems with his grip.

Apparently, Langer has calmed down since taking to heart the advice given him late in his playing career by one of the most laid back men ever to pick up a bat, New Zealand’s John Wright: “Young man, you need to chill out.”

But he has interpreted even that to within an inch of its sensibility: Langer now prefers to spend one full month of every year bearded and barefoot.

Good luck getting into the insufferably conservative member’s enclosure at most of Australia’s grounds like that, nevermind at Lord’s.

There was no lack of seriousness at the Wanderers a dozen years ago, when Langer’s involvement in his 100th Test appeared over after he ducked into the first ball of the innings — a Makhaya Ntini bouncer that felled and concussed him.

Days of headaches, vomiting and general frailty followed, but against the advice of doctors who told him he could die if he was hit again in the match and unbeknown to his captain, Ricky Ponting, Langer was padded up and good to go on the fifth morning when Australia’s eighth wicket fell with 17 runs needed for victory.

Happily for all concerned Nos. 8 and 10, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz, took the Aussies home and the threat to Langer’s life averted.

In less than six years as coach of Western Australia, where he lives by mantras like “no assholes” and “character over cover drives”, Langer has engineered five white-ball titles and trips to two Sheffield Shield finals.

There are thus reasons to applaud as well as be appalled that he is again part of international cricket.

But will Langer help the Australians learn the lesson that their compatriots, who have driven the backlash against ball-tamperers and conspirators Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, will not put up with a team who won’t stop at destroying their integrity by trying to cheat their way to victory?

“What I know is we should be very, very proud of our history of Australian cricket,” Langer told reporters at his unveiling on Thursday. “We’ve been not only good cricketers but generally good people.

“It’s not just about how we play our cricket, it’s also about being good citizens and good Australians.”

Oh dear.

So the same old misplaced nationalism, too easily conflated with patriotism — which has no place in sport — will continue.

“The public will be disappointed if we don’t play hard competitive cricket. That said, we can also modify our behaviours.

“I was lucky to play with great competitors. We talk about Allan Border, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Steve Waugh. They played hard but they were also outstanding people.

“We modify our behaviours a bit so that it’s not angry or not over aggressive but we’re still aggressive in the mindset that we play with the bat and the ball.”

Change “a bit”? Border and McGrath — among the most miserable bastards as players — are “outstanding people”? 

Oh dear.

“We know all know what the acceptable behaviours are. There’s a difference between the competitiveness and aggression and we have to be careful with that.”

Oh dear.

“Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, that’s simple. We get taught that from when you’re a little kid from your parents, through school.

“If our players literally stick to that, right or wrong, they’ll be OK, I think.”

The Australians have no clue what “the acceptable behaviours” are, neither on their most recent tour to South Africa nor — if you ask his opponents — when Langer played.

As for “everyone” knowing what’s right and wrong, you might have thought that included their former captain and vice-captain.

Oh dear.

Think again Cricket Australia.

De Villiers, Rabada could win big, but women kept cloistered

Neither Dané van Niekerk nor Marizanne Kapp, the top wicket-takers at the 2017 World Cup, have been nominated for CSA’s top award.

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Bangalore

AB de Villiers could complete a hattrick next month to become South Africa’s most heavily garlanded cricketer.

He is already is among only four players who have twice been named “SA Cricketer of the Year” — and a Cricket South Africa (CSA) release on Wednesday said De Villiers had been nominated for what would be an unprecedented third success in the elite category.

But neither Dané van Niekerk nor Marizanne Kapp, who were the top two wicket-takers at the 2017 World Cup, cracked the nod for the main prize.

That’s despite the fact that the name of the award, which will be presented at a function in Johannesburg on June 2, is free of gender bias.  

Kagiso Rabada, Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram and Vernon Philander are the other nominees.

Rabada won in 2016 and would thus join a club whose members are limited to Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and De Villiers should he be favoured again.

The No. 1 fast bowler in Test cricket might want to rent a trailer for the occasion: he could also leave the building carrying three other trophies, among them recognition as South Africa’s best Test and one-day player.

De Villiers is also in line for the Test and T20 gongs, with Markram among the nominees for international newcomer and Test honours. 

“As always, these awards are tough to judge due to the stiff nature of the competition,” the release quoted commentator and former first-class player Aslam Khota as saying.

“Our world-class senior players are well established and there is an encouraging number of international newcomers making their mark as well.

“The judging panel was impressed by the overall performances during the season of the nominees in the various categories.”

Disappointingly, none of the women who took South Africa to the World Cup semi-finals in England in June and July made the shortlist.

Even the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the original and most venerable and traditional dispenser of awards in the game, has seen fit to include three women among its five players of the year in its latest edition.

Instead the women’s names for CSA’s awards have been cloistered in strictly gendered boxes.

The big winners could be Shabnim Ismail and Van Niekerk, who have both been nominated in all four women’s categories — T20, ODI, “SA women’s player of the year”, and “Women’s cricketer of the year”.

Selected nominees:

International newcomer of the year:

Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi.

T20 international cricketer of the year:

Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, AB de Villiers.

ODI cricketer of the year:

Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada.

Test cricketer of the year:

AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

T20 women’s cricketer of the year:

Shabnim Ismail, Chloe Tryon, Dané van Niekerk.

ODI women’s cricketer of the year:

Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Dané van Niekerk, Laura Wolvaardt.

SA women’s player of the year:

Shabnim Ismail, Dané van Niekerk, Laura Wolvaardt.

Women’s cricketer of the year:

Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Dané van Niekerk, Laura Wolvaardt.

SA cricketer of the year:

Dean Elgar, AB de Villiers, Aiden Markram, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

Amla at home in united nations of Hampshire

Which South African has 80 T20 caps for Italy? Which English player is named after a comet?

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Bangalore

HASHIM Amla must have felt at home in the Hampshire team he played for against Essex at Southampton in the latest round of county championship matches.

Amla batted at No 4, one place above Rilee Rossouw and four higher than Kyle Abbott.

Brad Wheal, a Durban-born former KwaZulu-Natal under-19 fast bowler who has played 11 one-day internationals for Scotland, was listed at No. 10.

Amla might also have felt as if Hampshire’s dressingroom in Southampton was a United Nations project.

Fidel Edwards, of Barbados and a veteran of 55 Tests, 50 ODIs and 20 T20s for West Indies, was their No. 11.

Other members of the squad are Zimbabwe’s Sean Ervine, Ian Holland, who was born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in the United States and grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and Gareth Berg, originally a Capetonian, who last played in South Africa in November 2003.

Berg, a seaming allrounder, played for Western Province at under-15, under-18 and B level — and owns 80 T20 international caps for Italy. 

Of the 21 players on Hampshire’s books this season only three are actually from the county, a trend that holds true around the circuit. 

So, can we really call the competition the English county championship?

Yes, if it is regarded in relation to the foreign free-for-all that is football’s premier league.

And in light of English cricket’s long history, at all levels, of importing players from elsewhere.

In Amla, Dale Steyn told TMG Digital from his holiday in Bali, Hampshire have struck it lucky by signing, for the first three months of the season, anyway: a gun batsman and a classy bloke: “Obviously he’s a machine in terms of runs; he just churns them out regardless of the format.

“But I find that ‘Hash’ has always brought a sense of calm to the team. We all have our ways but to remain calm in extreme situations is an incredible strength.

“He’s also never shy of a bit of humor, very smart and calculated in his approach, he always brings a smile to the guys’ faces.”

So Steyn has a happy reunion in his diary: he is due to become Saffer No. 6 on Hampshire’s roster for two first-class matches next month. 

Steyn might want to give Amla some material for his next jolly jape in the dressingroom — like most of his teammates, allrounder Asher Hart is not from Hampshire. He’s from Cumbria and came to the county by way of Durham.

That’s not the funny bit. This is: his full name is Asher Hale-Bopp Joseph Arthur Hart.

What came to be named the Hale-Bopp Comet was discovered by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp in July 1995.

That year, Hampshire were represented by two West Indians and a player each from Australia, India, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

South Africans? None.