ICC panel smile on under-performing India

Rabada lone Saffer in ICC Test XI, none in ODI side.

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in London

YOU might think the Test team ranked second by the International Cricket Council (ICC) would crack a fair few nods in the ICC’s “Test team of the year”.

South Africa are that second-placed team, but in the ICC XI announced on Tuesday only Kagiso Rabada has earned a place.

Leaving him out would have been difficult seeing as he’s the No. 1 bowler as decided by the ICC themselves.

Part of the explanation for the paucity of Saffers is that the year in review was 2018 — and that they were in fourth place going into their series against Pakistan, which started on December 26.

Faf du Plessis’ team won six of the 10 Tests they played last year and lost the other four.

The top side in the rankings, India, have three players in the side and one of them, Virat Kohli, is the captain.

India’s record in 2018? Won six Tests, lost seven.

But wait. The lack of logic in the ICC’s team, which was picked by what a release called a “voting academy” that comprised former players, journalists and broadcasters from across the cricket world, doesn’t stop there.

There are also three players in the team from New Zealand, who are fourth in the standings, but none from England, who are third.

And is it right that the fourth and sixth ranked players in the batting rankings aren’t in the side because their names are Steve Smith and David Warner, convicted ball-tamperers both?

Maybe, considering there was space only for four of the top 10 — Kohli, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Dimuth Karunaratne.

Three of the bowlers in the team — Rabada, Mohammad Abbas and Jason Holder — are in the top 10.

Kohli also captains the ICC’s ODI selection, which features three other Indians, four England players and one each from New Zealand, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

And not a single South African. With a World Cup coming ready or not, that’s a worry for them.

Then again, considering the Test team, perhaps not.

ICC teams of the year:

Test: Tom Latham (New Zealand), Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka), Kane Williamson (New Zealand), Virat Kohli (India, captain), Henry Nicholls (New Zealand), Rishabh Pant (India), Jason Holder (West Indies), Kagiso Rabada (South Africa), Nathan Lyon (Australia), Jasprit Bumrah (India), Mohammad Abbas (Pakistan).

ODI: Rohit Sharma (India), Jonny Bairstow (England), Virat Kohli (India, captain), Joe Root (England), Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Jos Buttler (England), Ben Stokes (England), Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh), Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), Kuldeep Yadav (India), Jasprit Bumrah (India).

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Van der Dussen misses 100 club, but makes mark

“You’ve always got to be scoring runs.” – Hashim Amla welcomes Rassie van der Dussen to reality. 

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in London

WHEN Rassie van der Dussen reached 90 at St George’s Park on Saturday he was the fourth South Africa player to forge that close to a century in his debut one-day international innings. Thirteen balls later he became the only one of the four not to go on to three figures.

Colin Ingram made 124 against Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein in October 2010, Temba Bavuma’s 113 came against Ireland in Benoni in September 2016, and Sri Lanka were on the receiving end of Reeza Hendricks’ 102 in Pallekele in August last year.

Van der Dussen’s career record will always show that he got out for 93 in his first ODI, and quite some innings it was.

Nobody on the South African domestic scene hits the ball harder than the Lions lasher has been doing for almost 11 years, and he didn’t struggle to bring that approach to the highest level on Saturday after overcoming an unsure start to his innings.

Van der Dussen ripped his runs off 101 balls and hammered six fours and three sixes hit sweetly and through the line of the ball.

His departure from that method was his downfall: his bat splayed a touch too horizontally in dealing with a full toss from Hasan Ali and he shoved a catch down long-off’s throat.

“It was the kind of wicket that’s always difficult for somebody coming in,” Hashim Amla told reporters in Port Elizabeth.

“It takes about 20, 30 balls for you to get the pace of the wicket and find some sort of rhythm. He managed to get through that and he batted really beautifully.”

Van der Dussen left the field to a rousing reception from the crowd, which he had the good manners to acknowledge properly, and was afforded a congratulatory handshake by the incoming David Miller. 

More than half his runs were actually run — which must have come as a shock to Amla, who batted with Van der Dussen from the 18th over to the 47th in their stand of 155.

Amla is 35 going on 120. Van der Dussen turns 30 next month but charges about in the body of a 20-year-old.

An unbeaten 108 off 120 balls was Amla’s reward for putting up with all that, but South Africa scoring only 76 in the last 10 overs — which led to a throwback total of 266/2, and victory by five wickets for the visitors — could be put down to the bearded ballie running out of puff.

Then again, Amla faced 26 balls after 40 overs and scored 28 runs. Miller, one of the most aggressive batters in the game, made a marginally faster 16 not out off 12.

Maybe conditions at a ground where Pakistan have yet to lose an ODI — they’ve won four in Port Elizabeth and had another washed out — were the bigger factor.

Perhaps Pakistan simply played better cricket than South Africa. Whatever. Van der Dussen has earned another crack at Kingsmead on Tuesday.

Now comes the hard part, as Amla explained: “He’ll have to be in good form — from now til the World Cup and beyond. You’ve always got to be scoring runs.

“The brains trust have their vision and things they want to try out. For us, we’re just trying to play our part in the team. Obviously you want to be in good form.”   

But Van der Dussen shouldn’t be too unhappy about missing out on a century on debut.

The freshly retired player who every new batter in South Africa’s ODI XI will be measured against for a while yet needed seven innings to reach 30, 17 to get to 50, and 37 to celebrate his first century in a career that didn’t turn out too badly.

His name is AB de Villiers.

Should SA have rested freshly back in form De Kock?

“The guys get rested too easily these days. He’s only 26 years old – yes, he should be playing for sure.” – Herschelle Gibbs

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in London

SEPTEMBER. That’s the only full month since South Africa’s tour to Sri Lanka in July that Quinton de Kock hasn’t played any cricket.

He’s been involved in 29 games in the past seven months; six if you don’t count September.

We can’t blame the Indian Premier League (IPL) this time: all those matches were for South Africa and the Cape Town Blitz.

As a wicketkeeper, De Kock’s work is a long way from done even if he gets out first ball. In the five Tests he has played since July alone he has been on the field for around 3 650 minutes.

That’s almost 61 hours spent crouching behind the stumps or tapping a bat at the crease.

Add the 24 white-ball games, all the hours of training and being trapped in airplanes, and it’s not difficult to see the argument in favour of South Africa deciding to rest De Kock for the first two one-day internationals against Pakistan.

Thing is, he spent the most recent 228 minutes at the crease, in the third Test at the Wanderers last weekend, scoring 129 — his first century for South Africa in any format in 39 innings since October 2017.

Will not playing at St George’s Park on Saturday and Kingsmead on Tuesday threaten his newly rediscovered form?

Now that he’s back on the bike shouldn’t he keep riding it?

Herschelle Gibbs didn’t leave room for doubt about what he thought: “The guys get rested too easily these days.

“He’s only 26 years old — yes, he should be playing for sure.

“Also, the Tests against Pakistan were done in three days. That’s plenty of days off.

“There’s no point resting him.”

South Africa beat Pakistan before tea on the third day at Centurion, only 9.5 overs into the fourth at Newlands, and after 25.4 overs of the fourth day at the Wanderers. The series lasted, effectively, less than 25 of the scheduled 45 sessions.

De Kock has, then, enjoyed a lighter workload in the past few weeks than he might have had Pakistan taken the game deeper.

That can’t hurt him in wear and tear terms. Neither can his two days off and the training and travel time he will avoid.

With an IPL coming and a World Cup to follow — and 10 games in all formats against Sri Lanka before that — it makes sense to keep the busiest players as fresh as possible.

Dale Steyn has also been put on ice for the Port Elizabeth and Durban matches. But he’s 35, has had a recent history of serious injury and will be worth more than his weight in gold in sheer presence for South Africa at the World Cup.

Whether someone as plainly fuelled by instinct as De Kock will be helped or hampered by being taken out of the mix is more difficult to know.

We should find out on Friday, when he is due back for the third ODI at Centurion.

Like PE, Durban is also Pakistan’s happy hunting ground

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in London

REEZA Hendricks spoke of South Africa’s need to “improve” and “bounce back” twice in his press conference in Durban on Monday, and he was right both times.

Despite losing only two wickets they totalled just 266 in the first match of their one-day series against Pakistan at St George’s Park on Saturday.

Pakistan added a victory, by five wickets, to their record at a ground where they have not lost any of their five ODIs.

So it’s concerning that Hendricks gave the impression that South Africa’s batters thought they had done their job well enough: “In our minds we thought it would be a good score. We thought we had gone about it the right way.”

Closer to the truth was that conditions were challenging and the visitors bowled well, which to be fair to him Hendricks also highlighted.

Tuesday’s second match will be played at Kingsmead, another slowish pitch where the Pakistanis won five of their eight ODIs — including four out of six against South Africa. 

“Tomorrow will be a big game for us,” Hendricks said. “We’re definitely looking to improve and bounce back from our last game in PE.

“We know Pakistan are a good one-day outfit — they proved it be beating us in PE.”

Hendricks scored 45 on Saturday, and saw his Lions teammate, Rassie van der Dussen, blaze a scintillating 93 on debut.

With the World Cup now just nine ODIs and little more than four months away, everything South Africa do is part of a bigger picture.

So it could complicate Hendricks’ plans for the next few months if rivals like Van der Dussen are able to stake their claim while he’s watching from the dressingroom.

But, nice young man that he is, Hendricks said he knew he was part of a dressingroom striving for a greater good.

“I’m not looking at who’s around me,” he said. “If I don’t get selected I know the player next to me and the guys that are going will do the job and I’ll back them 100%.”

Of course. But he’ll grab the chance to make some runs at Kingsmead on Tuesday to remind the selectors that they need to consider all their options before naming their World Cup squad.

Pitch producers walk cricket’s thin line

“It seems gone are the days of a good wicket and the best team will win. Now it’s how quickly can we win.” – Evan Flint

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in London

DAMNED if they do, damned if they don’t. Unsung if they get it right, incompetents if they get it wrong, traitors if they give the visitors too much help. They can’t win. And all for the privilege of working from before dawn to after dusk in whatever weather for not enough money.

It’s the job in cricket that, it seems, dare not speak its name. Not least because its name is disputed.

Groundsman is a problem in gender terms, and probably dissuades women from considering involving themselves.

Curator is Australian, and wrong. The Oxford Dictionary defines a curator as the “keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection” and a “person who selects acts to perform at a music festival”.

But you know them when you see them: they wear shorts and a floppy hat, and their knees are muddy. Prominent among them is Evan Flint, who is leaving Newlands, his patch for 10 years, for the Wanderers, where he starts work on February 1.

“There are times when I ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’,” Flint said. “But how often does the Bullring job come up for grabs? That sound the ball makes when it hits the bat …

“But there’s no mountain …”

Flint spoke from Johannesburg before the third Pakistan test. He was there to “have a look at how Mr Scott and Mr Buthelezi go about their business”.

That’s Chris Scott and Bethuel Buthelezi, who hit the headlines hard last January when the India test was temporarily suspended because their pitch came close to being declared dangerous. Instead it was labelled merely poor, which earned the Wanderers three demerit points. Another two during the following five years would see South Africa’s premier ground suspended from hosting international matches for 12 months.

Infamously, the home side had asked for the surfaces for that rubber to be overtly South African. They duly were at Newlands and the Wanderers. But at Centurion intense heat that killed the additional grass, which led to a sluggish pitch that brought the culprit, Bryan Bloy, unwanted attention. 

“You’ll struggle to find a groundsman anywhere who wants to have people talking about them,” Flint said. “If they are talking about us then we haven’t done our job properly.”

There has been less of that kind of talk this season because pitches have been less spicy. But only marginally. 

“You want it now, perhaps because of the influence of T20,” Flint said. “We’re playing at home and we want to maximise our strengths.

“It seems gone are the days of a good wicket and the best team will win. Now it’s how quickly can we win.”

Still, the line can’t be crossed. So did events at the Wanderers last season influence Flint’s appointment?

“To some extent, yes,” Gauteng Cricket Board chief executive Greg Fredericks said. “The risk is too great. We’ve got this thing hanging over our heads for five years.”

The alchemy of making pitches isn’t a job. It’s a country song.

Like Johnny Cash, Flint and company walk the line.

Leading Edge: Another World Cup looms like a mugger in a dark alley

FW de Klerk was deputy president the last time South Africa went to the tournament not expecting to win.

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in London

IF you’re old enough to do the big things in life — realise no politician deserves your vote, know capitalism is evil, stop taking religion seriously, drive drunk — you haven’t lived through a time when South Africa have not been expected to win the World Cup.

Until now. Sorry, Faf, but when you and the okes go off to England in a couple of months you will take Mzansi’s best wishes with you but not a lot of our hope.

Even winning all 10 the one-day internationals you will play against Pakistan and Sri Lanka won’t change that. At least, not for longer than the two weeks in 1995 it took white South Africans to go back to shouting at their maids after Nelson Mandela’s temporarily united nation were crowned champions of planet rugby.

The last time South Africa’s cricketers went to a World Cup knowing the country didn’t have confidence in them came a year later.

Nevermind that Mandela was still president, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki were his deputies. Nelson and Winnie divorced that year. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission started its formal hearings. Yes, it really was that long ago.

Long enough ago that South Africa had been to only one World Cup before that — in 1992 when Peter Kirsten batted them all the way to a Sydney semifinal against England, who ended the fairytale unhappily with the help of rain rules so out of touch they might have been chiselled onto stone tablets.

Fours later the reality of South Africa’s fragility in the subcontinent had set in, and was confirmed when they ran into West Indies on a good day in their quarterfinal in Karachi.

Allan Donald was left out. Donald, the finest fast bowler of the age, dropped. Brian Lara smacked 22 of his 111 off a single Pat Symcox over. Steven Palframan has spent too much of the ensuing 23 years watching replays of the chance offered by Shivnarine Chanderpaul — and that dipped under his left glove — wondering whether he should have been a half-step closer to the stumps.

South Africa were going all the way in 1999. Of course they were. Until Lance Klusener and Donald found themselves all padded up with no place to go except the same end of the pitch in the semifinal against Australia at Edgbaston.

They would win it at home in 2003. Then they discovered they couldn’t read a Duckworth/Lewis sheet and were bundled out in the first round.

South Africa’s year would be 2007. Except it was Australia’s. Surely 2011 would be different. It was: South Africa couldn’t chase a middling 222 on a flat Dhaka pitch to beat New Zealand in their quarterfinal, and were bowled out for a piddling 172.

They didn’t choke in 2015. Instead, at the damn fool instigation of Cricket bloody South Africa’s board, Vernon Philander and his dodgy hamstring were pressganged into the XI for the semi against New Zealand in Auckland. Why not Farhaan Behardien or Aaron Phangiso as the fourth black player? Anyway. Dale Steyn to Grant Elliott, five to win, two balls left … History.

And here we are, another World Cup looming like a mugger in a dark alley. We’re too jaded to care anymore: take our money, our watches, our cellphones, whatever else. Then leave us the hell alone. We don’t like cricket. We used to love it. Our dreadlock holiday has been shortened, simply, sadly, to dread.

South Africa, you read it here first, will not win the 2019 World Cup. You could probably agree with that assertion and find reasons to make it bulletproof— conditions, personnel, mental toughness. It’s all there if you look for it.

But that doesn’t mean we believe it. None of us will ever be old enough to think South Africa are not going to win the World Cup. Because that’s how sport works. We watch because we believe. 

This time? You reckon?

UK still open for business for Qaasim Adams

“I like to operate a no dickheads policy.” – player agent Rob Humphries on why he will continue to represent Adams. 

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in London

QAASIM Adams, cricket’s fastest gun in the Western Cape, is set to continue his professional career in England this winter and could target a future in coaching.

Adams has been suspended by the Western Province Cricket Association for 12 days for bringing the game into disrepute — his punishment for drawing a gun in the presence of his teammates at their hotel during a match in Oudtshoorn in November.

The WPCA say the lack of a written complaint prevented them from taking stronger action, but the suspension is likely to preclude Adams from playing for WP again this season and his first-class career is likely over.

But he is free to continue playing club cricket in South Africa and his agent in England says he will be back in action there as a professional in the northern summer.

Adams has played in England intermittently since 2003. In 16 innings for Banbury in the first division of the Home Counties Premier League last year, he scored three centuries and three half-centuries among his 624 runs and averaged 44.57.

Asked what he had planned for Adams in the coming months, player agent Rob Humphries of World Sports Xchange told TMG Digital: “A stint of club cricket in the UK this winter.”

Humphries was adamant reports on the firearm incident had been “blown out of proportion” and said he would not continue to represent Adams if he had been guilty of a serious offence: “I like to operate a no dickheads policy.”  

Sources have told TMG Digital that Adams produced the weapon in front of several of his teammates but did not point it at them.

Others say one of those teammates, Givon Christian, claimed to have been “traumatised” by the episode.

Christian has since been quoted as saying he has forgiven Adams.

Humphries said Adams, 34, realised he was reaching the end of his playing years but was keen to stay in the game: “He’s ready to go into coaching, and the feedback we’ve had on his coaching has been fantastic.”

Adams scored 108 in the first innings in Oudtshoorn in what seems certain to be his last first-class games.

He has played for the Cobras and WP, the Titans and Northerns, and the Lions — and had one outing for South Africa A — in his 82 first-class games.

Olivier plots course for place among SA greats – if he keeps his place

Duanne Olivier has missed 15 Tests since he made his debut, and in that time a dozen men have bowled seam up for South Africa.

Times Select

TELFORD VICE in London

DUANNE Olivier is a nightclub bouncer of a bowler, a man who can seem as broad across the shoulders as he is tall. And he’s a long way from short.

There’s menace in the jut of his jaw and an unsettling softness in his eyes: frightening batters doesn’t excite him. It’s just what he does.

Along, of course, with getting them out fast and furious. How fast?

Upwards of 140 kilometres an hour, and with a knack for sending screamers past helmets.

And fast enough to make a simpler, faster better start to his Test career than many of South Africa’s finest bowlers.

He has 41 scalps after eight games — more than Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn or Morné Morkel at the same stage of their careers.

Buck Llewellyn also took 41 in the first eight of his 15 Tests, while Mike Procter claimed 41 in the only seven Tests he played.

Alf Hall also played seven Tests, earning 40 scalps, and Joe Partridge and Allan Donald both had 38 after eight.

So Olivier would seem on course for the pantheon. His haul of 24 wickets at an average 14.70 in the three matches against Pakistan is easily his best performance in a career only eight games old.

Should he claim nine or more in his next Test he will join Peter Pollock as the second-fastest South Africa bowler to reach 50 career wickets.

The fastest, Vernon Philander, roared to the milestone in only seven games.

Olivier’s current form is far cry from the kind of bowling that earned him 17 wickets in his first five Tests. What’s changed?

“[Previously] I was still very young, inexperienced, exposed to everything and thinking to far ahead; not concentrating on taking it ball by ball,” Olivier told reporters at the Wanderers after the end of the Pakistan series on Monday. “For this series I just tried to do that every ball.”

If he continues in that vein he could become the sixth South Africa bowler to claim 50 wickets in a calendar year.

Makhaya Ntini and Steyn have done it three times each, Shaun Pollock and Rabada twice, and Donald once.

First past the post was Pakistan’s Waqar Younis, who took 58 in seven matches in 1993, when he bowled 271 overs.

South Africa’s record-holder is Steyn, who claimed 51 in nine games and 357.4 overs in 2013. 

Olivier should bump up his total in the two home Tests in Sri Lanka in February although he’s likely to find conditions less to his liking in the three games South Africa are scheduled to play in India in October.

But at least two of England’s four Tests in South Africa next summer should sneak into 2019, and thus Olivier friendly.

All of which is, of course, selection permitting — which promises to be anything but straightforward what with rivals of the calibre of Lungi Ngidi, who has 15 wickets from four Tests and is due back from a knee injury by the end of February, in the mix.

“It’s not like I’m a certainty in the team where you play every game,” Olivier said.

Indeed, he has missed 15 Tests since he made his debut. And in that time a dozen men have bowled seam up for South Africa, including odds and sods like Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn.

So it’s complicated. But Olivier’s method is simple, and that can’t hurt — unless you’re the oke at the other end of the pitch.

And as long as he avoids the kind of challenges that have derailed other promising careers.

Olivier won’t, for instance, run into the unfairness that stunted the unofficially mixed race Llewellyn’s career.

Or the business commitments in the textile industry that limited Hall’s time on the field.

Or the isolation that protected opposing Test teams from the terrifying Procter.

But Partridge failed to find favour with the selectors as much as he might have had he not shared an era with Peter Heine and Neil Adcock.

Bulawayo-born Partridge was a complex character who captained his school boxing team but bowled in spectacles.

Aged just 55 and having succumbed to homelessness and alcoholism, he came to a sticky end in 1988 when he shot himself in the head in a Harare police station after being arrested for ducking out on a hotel bill.

Olivier has many reasons to be rather more cheerful, not least the uncomplicated truth that he is what he seems to be: a bloody good fast bowler.

Who could also be a nightclub bouncer …

Qaasim Adams ‘scared’ teammates but ‘didn’t point gun’

Scuffing a ball — one-year ban; pointing a gun at a teammate — six-match ban? Either the world’s gone loopy, or there are different rules for different people.” – Kenny Jackson on Adams’ punishment

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in London

QAASIM Adams was on his way out of professional cricket in South Africa before a hot November night in Oudsthoorn — when he effectively ended his career by brandishing a gun in the company of his teammates.

Sources say Adams had no intention of using the weapon, and it is not known whether the gun was loaded.

It appears he has not been criminally charged, but he has not escaped censure by former players who are unhappy with how the episode has been dealt with by the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA).

The incident happened on the evening of November 9, the second day of WP’s three-day game against South Western Districts.

That day, in an innings of 198 balls in which he spent more than four hours at the crease, Adams completed his 108, his 11th first-class century.

Adams’ effort was almost half WP’s total of 229 in which no-one else had reached 30.

But that didn’t spare him being ribbed by his teammates as the old man of the side, which rang true for the 34-year-old father of three.

Allegedly Adams left the gathering to go to his room, returned with a firearm gun and, according to one source, “scared the other players with it as a joke”.

There was, the source said, no altercation between Adams and his teammates: “There was no argument, no anger, no pointing of the gun at anyone. Other players thought the gun might not be real and handled it themselves.”

But one of them, Givon Christian, took exception and complained.

“[Adams] said it was in jest but Christian said he was traumatised,” another source said.

It took three weeks for the story to emerge, which culminated in Adams being suspended for 12 days “of provincial activity” according to a WPCA release. He remains free to play club cricket.

The sanction was derided on social media, where former first-class player Kenny Jackson referenced the Australian ball-tampering scandal when he wrote: “Scuffing a ball — one-year ban; pointing a gun at a teammate — six-match ban? Either the world’s gone loopy, or there are different rules for different people.”

But the WPCA say they have acted responsibly.

“You don’t play with a gun, not even a toy gun,” WPCA chief executive Nabeal Dien told TMG Digital on Tuesday. “We felt we couldn’t ignore it. We’ve effectively taken his season away.

“There’s one fixture [WP] left by the time he is back and we may not select him for that game.”

The South African Cricketers’ Association’s (SACA) role was limited, according to chief executive Tony Irish: “We can’t really get involved because both [Adams and Christian] are members, so it would be a conflict of interest.”

Irish said SACA had helped Adams arrange legal representation. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Adams might have been more severely dealt with had a written complaint been lodged and followed through, not least because pointing a firearm — loaded or not — is an offence under South African law.

“There was no official written warning,” Dien said. “There was a legal process and a plea bargain.

“The charge was bringing the game into disrepute, and he actually got a heavier sentence than most players who are found guilty on that charge.”

A source said the saga had put paid to any future Adams hoped to have in the professional ranks: “No-one is going to contract him. He’s been a tricky customer wherever he’s been.”

In a first-class career that started in November 2007, Adams has played 36 games for the Cobras and WP, 25 for the Titans, 44 for the Titans and Northerns, and one each for the Lions and South Africa A.

Why the IPL isn’t coming to South Africa this year

India have more suitable venues than in 2009 and more creative solutions to security challenges.

Times Select

TELFORD VICE in London

SOUTH Africa’s loss to Egypt in the bunfight to host this year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals is the country’s big sporting disappointment so far this year. So much so that news of another major letdown has slipped under the radar, even under the boundary.

South Africa and the United Arab Emirates had been on standby as potential replacement hosts for the Indian Premier League (IPL), but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said they had decided to keep the competition at home.

We knew this last Tuesday half-an-hour before the AFCON blow fell and it meant much less to many fewer South Africans. So it raised barely a blip on the national consciousness.

The BCCI had made a plan B because the IPL, which is scheduled to be played from March 23 to May 12, could coincide with India’s general elections, which are expected to be held between April and May.

Boasting a total of 1.59-million spectators in 2017 and an average of 26 542 per game, the IPL draws more people to its matches than any other cricket competition.

Crowds that big need plenty of security, and India’s authorities weren’t confident they could adequately police the elections and the IPL simultaneously.

If this sounds familiar it’s because it happened in 2009, when the IPL was moved to South Africa at short notice and hailed as an organisational triumph by Cricket South Africa (CSA).

What’s changed 10 years on? For one thing, India has exponentially more suitable venues than in 2009.

The year before that the tournament was played in eight cities around the country. This year matches could be staged at 26 Indian grounds.

Rather than the familiar home-and-away structure, in 2019 a proposed caravan format could see all the teams stationed in one city before the circus packs up and moves on.

In India, with its population of 1.34-billion, elections are conducted in stages. So when votes are being cast in the north the cricket caravan could be in the south, and vice versa.

Also, an IPL game has evolved into an extravaganza that is about much more than cricket, a glittering production of Bollywood beyond the boundary that is exponentially more intensely managed and meticulously presented than any event of any kind in South Africa. Whether even Mzansi’s best stadiums would be able to meet that standard is open to question.   

Indian sources say another reason for keeping the tournament in their backyard was the cost of moving it to and around South Africa.

The decision doesn’t seem to have been part of the fallout for what apparently resulted after a CSA statement in September quoted chief executive Thabang Moroe as saying the BCCI had accepted “our invitation to make some of their senior administrators, who have extensive experience in running the IPL, available to assist with the smooth running” of what became the Mzansi Super League (MSL).

Closer to the truth, it would seem, is that former IPL chief operating officer Sundar Raman was indeed in South Africa on the above mission at or around the same time a BCCI delegation was there to reconnoitre moving the IPL.

Raman, who was appointed to his IPL job by former supremo Lalit Modi — who has since become BCCI enemy No. 1 — resigned in November 2015 in the wake of a betting and spotfixing scandal. The BCCI and Raman are thus on conflicting paths.

The upshot, TMG Digital has learnt, is that Moroe has since apologised to the super sensitive BCCI for his assertion that their suits were coming to help.

CSA did not respond to a request for confirmation that that had happened.

It’s not difficult to understand why Moroe would jump through whatever hoops set for him to restore the relationship between CSA and the BCCI to what it was in 2009.

Perhaps it was too strong a bond. Some R4.7-million in bonuses was paid by India’s grateful suits to their South African counterparts was not properly declared to CSA’s governance committees.

A long and ugly saga led to Gerald Majola being fired as CSA’s chief executive. His successor, Haroon Lorgat, left the organisation in September 2017 in the throes of a power struggle over the MSL, which was played in November and December — a year late, apparently having given away the broadcast rights to the SABC for free, without a title sponsor, and with at least one former franchise owner having launched legal action against CSA.

The made-for-TV cricket duly looked good on television, where it fetched an audience of 3.4-million for the four games played on its opening weekend.

But the MSL looked less like the real thing on the ground, where some venues reported crowds half the size of what they would draw for a regular franchise T20 game.

CSA have said the MSL would make a loss of R40-million in its first year, and TMG Digital has been told they have quietly assured their stakeholders that they are in the process of securing a government bailout of R45-million.

Thing is, more objective estimates put the MSL loss closer to R100-million. So the money earned from hosting the IPL would have come in handy.

Bugger. Or, as Lucas Maree sang all those years ago: “Ek sou kon doen met ’n miljoen.”