Tardy CSA hint at interim deal with SACA

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

HAVING left matters lamentably late, Cricket South Africa (CSA) are hinting that an interim agreement with the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) may be needed to save the professional game from collapse in this country.

The current memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CSA and SACA expires at the end of the month — seven working days including Thursday.

No replacement has been agreed, and without a valid MOU most of the country’s national and franchise players would be unemployed.

That would leave them free to strike deals with other organisations, particularly T20 circuses around the world, that could see them lost to cricket in South Africa.

SACA have complained that CSA have delayed negotiations for a new agreement, but in a release on Wednesday the board said it had “outlined plans to conclude a new MOU with SACA as a matter of urgency”.  

The release includes a get-out-of-trouble clause: “In the event of negotiations concerning the new MOU not being completed by April 30 CSA has indicated its willingness to extend the existing contracts for a further period with the intention of having the new agreement in place by July this year.”

Thabang Moroe, CSA’s acting chief executive, who in December claimed that, “Ultimately the people who make money for cricket is CSA, it’s not a union”, in what came across as a surprisingly aggressive stance towards CSA’s only revenue-generating assets — the players — seems to have changed his tune. 

“While we will be seeking to clarify our relationship with SACA, I would like to stress that there will be no fundamental change in the underlying relationships between CSA and SACA,” Moroe was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s release.

“It is rather the intention to restructure these relationships that cover the employer/employee relationship, the collective bargaining relationship and the commercial relationship so that all of these relationships are regulated under separate agreements.

“In the interim while the new MOU is being negotiated CSA gives an irrevocable undertaking that an interim agreement is being proposed to allay any anxiety on the part of our cricketers concerning their futures.”

The new MOU, the release said, would “have the scope to include all national, franchise, senior provincial and women’s cricketers and will be made binding on them in accordance with Section 23 of the Labour Relations Act”.

That agreement would be in force for five years.

SACA chief executive Tony Irish could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Why the IPL is falling out of love with South Africa’s players

“How Ben Cutting can be better than Vernon Philander I just don’t know.” – Francois Brink, player agent

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

THE nine South Africans in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) might have filled 83 player berths in the 13 games played until Monday.

Instead they’ve made only 13 appearances and just three of them have played in all of their team’s games.

That will please those South Africans who regard the IPL and the rest of its ilk as a dangerous aberration in a game that should be all about the international arena and the domestic scene.

But others might wonder if cricket’s most high-profile event is falling out of love with players from this country.

South Africa’s IPL class of 2018 comprises Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Chris Morris, David Miller, Cameron Delport, JP Duminy, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers.

The list would have included Dale Steyn — probably — and Kagiso Rabada, who have been sidelined by injury, and Lungi Ngidi, who has returned home after the death of his father.

That would have brought the size of the South African contingent to 12: three more than last year’s number before Duminy withdrew to work on his game.

So, perhaps the IPL wants South Africans as much as it ever did. Or not.

In 2016 the tournament had 16 players from these shores, the same number as in 2015, and in 2014 there were 15. From 2009 to 2012 there were at least 19 Saffers and as many as 23, twice, on franchises’ books.

Francois Brink, an agent at One World of Sport, has an idea why South Africans and the IPL are becoming estranged bedfellows.

“The Australasian influence at the IPL is massive if you look at the coaches and the backroom staff,” Brink said, and he has a point in that Stephen Fleming, Tom Moody, Daniel Vettori, Ricky Ponting and Brad Hodge are head coaches at five of the eight franchises.

The only South Africans at that level are Jacques Kallis and Paddy Upton, who are in charge at Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals.

That lack of balance could, however unconsciously, influence which players franchises acquire.    

Or, as Brink said: “How Ben Cutting can be better than Vernon Philander I just don’t know.”

Cutting, a 31-year-old Queenslander who has played four one-dayers and seven T20s for Australia, averages less than 25 in all three formats with the bat and more than 25 with the ball.

Philander, the owner of 204 Test wickets at 21.46, hasn’t been as successful in the other formats at international level. And it bears pointing out that he is represented by Brink’s agency.

But there is no argument that he is a better player, and should be a more valuable signing in the IPL, even if Asian conditions often don’t allow him to bring out his best, than Cutting.

The IPL has indeed favoured Australians over South Africans: 85 of them have been contracted over the years compared to 49 of ours.

Part of why that’s happening, Brink said, could be because foreigners just don’t get transformation: “I don’t think they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.

“They’re saying, ‘Can we trust what’s coming through [South Africa’s] system?’.

“It’s a skewed perception but perception has a funny way of becoming reality.”

Another theory is that South Africans’ marketability as white-ball players diminished after the 1999 World Cup, which they looked on course to win before coming unstuck spectacularly in the tied semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston.

Compared to the five years before that match, South Africa won almost 10% fewer one-day internationals in the five years after the fateful day.  

Some South Africans have done exceptionally well out of the IPL and other T20 tournaments.

Albie Morkel is one of only seven cricketers to have played more than 300 matches in the format for South Africa and nine franchises in this country, England, India and West Indies.

Insiders estimate Morkel has made more than R50-million from all that T20ing, which they say is more than Graeme Smith earned over the course of his playing career.

Morkel is now 36 and hasn’t picked up a bat in anger since January. His younger version may be Delport, 28, who aside from the Dolphins has played T20s for Sydney Thunder, Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel, Leicestershire, Lahore Qualandars, Dhaka Dynamites, Boost Defenders, and Galaxy Gladiators Lantau.

You won’t struggle to work out where most of those teams play, but you might need to be told that the last two are part of the Shpageeza tournament in Afghanistan and the Hong Kong T20 Blitz. 

Delport’s a long way behind Morkel and his 307 caps. If he ever gets a game for Kallis’ KKR, it will be his 140th in the format.

But Delport has done what even Morkel hasn’t and played in a T10 tournament — four matches for Bengal Tigers in Sharjah in December.

Yes, T10. It’s a thing.

Boxing needs Joshua vs Wilder like vampires need blood

Fans deserve a better candidate for “Fight of the Century” than the vegan feast that was Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao

Times SELECT

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

BETWEEN them they’ve stepped through the ropes as professionals 61 times and gone the distance only twice. Neither has yet lost.

One stands 1.98 metres tall and calls Watford in Hertfordshire home. The other tops out at 2.01 metres and hails from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

They own an Olympic medal each, having won gold in London in 2012 and bronze in Beijing in 2008.

“AJ” is the unimaginative nickname of one. The other calls himself “The Bronze Bomber” with reference to his Olympic gong. And Joe Louis, of course.

One is the best active heavyweight in the world according to The Ring magazine, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and Boxrec.com. The other is No. 2 on the same lists.

They are Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua and Deontay Leshun Wilder, and they are the closest thing heavyweight boxing has to the glory days when giants like Louis — “The Brown Bomber” — Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes roamed the ring.

So fight fans have something special to savour in the shape of Joshua vs Wilder, coming soonish to a sold-out, pay-per-viewed to the hilt arena not near you, fellow South Africans.

It’s early days yet in what will become a soap opera of bluff and bluster long before a glove is laced, but on April 10 Joshua said he would make Wilder “a very good offer” that included the option of a rematch. Yank or not, Joshua favoured Wembley or Cardiff as the venue for the initial clash.

Boxing needs this fight like a vampire needs blood. For one thing, it’s high time the heavyweight division stopped being a sad, slobbish joke. For another, the fans deserve a better candidate for “Fight of the Century” than the vegan feast that was Floyd “Unhittable, Unlikeable, Uncredible” Mayweather vs Manny “Overrated, Overblown, Over the Hill” Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2, 2015. For still another, when last has a high-profile boxer enthusiastically wanted to mix it with someone who could actually beat him? Michael Buffer is getting ready to rumble as we speak.

Joshua first became what is these days unseriously called a world champion by knocking out the previously unbeaten Charles Martin in the second round in London on April 9, 2016 to earn the International Boxing Federation title.

He has since added to his mantlepiece the versions of the same party hat — let’s not call it a crown — proffered by the International Boxing Organisation, the World Boxing Association and the World Boxing Organisation.

After laying out Martin, Joshua has reeled off five victories — four of them inside the distance, and one of those easily 2017’s fight of the year. And for every year since 1989 and Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns.

Wembley Stadium was crammed with 90 000 fans on April 29 last year, and Joshua’s opponent was the man whose presence in the ring proved how pathetic heavyweight boxing had become: Wladimir Klitschko, a fighter so robotically boring he spat not blood but 3-In-One oil between rounds, who knew he was too dull to live up to his sexier given name of Volodymyr Volodymyrovych Klychko, who at 41 was and had been a “world champ” of one flavour or other since 2000.

His brother, Vitali and equally indistinguishable as a fighter from a bowl of cold porridge, had won his first so-called “world title” the year before. He sullied a ring with his lack of presence for the last time in Moscow on September 8, 2012, when his ninth WBC title defence was stopped in the fourth because too much of the red stuff was leaking from Manuel Charr’s slashed eyebrow.

About the only interesting thing the Klitschko klutzes could have done was fight each other. They didn’t.

So the bad dream that was the Klitschko years seemed to be over on November 28, 2015 in Dusseldorf, where Tyson Fury — now there’s a sexy name — won a unanimous decision over the unloved and unlovable Ukrainian in a miserable drunk wedding dance of a fight.

Still, there was hope that Klitschko had, not a decade too soon, been knocked the hell out of boxing.

Except that Tyson agreed to a rematch before announcing, on October 3, 2016, a week after ESPN reported that he had tested positive for cocaine, “Boxing is the saddest thing I ever took part in, all a pile of shit, I’m the greatest, champ; I’m also retired …” This he said, like all the classy guys do, on Twitter.

But, unhappily, Tyson was right and we weren’t rid of Klitschko after all. There he was, reinstated as a champion and having his batteries checked and his nuts and bolts tightened and being hoisted by an invisible forklift into the ring at Wembley on April 29 to face Joshua, who had reeled off 18 straight KOs or TKOs, most of them against people who would have been fired on day one if boxing was a proper job.

Then a wonderful thing happened: Joshua flattened the robot with a furious flurry in the fifth. Only for the machine to come whirring back to life and deck Joshua in the sixth. But, in the 11th, Joshua flicked Klitschko’s off switch twice, putting him on the canvas both times. He was flailing away at this parked 4×4 on the ropes when the referee, David Fields, the gods bless him, intervened to end one of boxing’s most forgettable eras.

At 32 Wilder is four years older than Joshua and has had 40 fights, almost twice as many as the younger man’s 21.

He doesn’t have a Klitschko in his kitbag, but he does have a hard-fought 10th-round TKO win over Luis Ortiz in Brooklyn last month.

Ortiz, 12.5 kilogrammes heavier, seven years older and with — he says — 369 amateur fights behind him in his native Cuba to add to his 30 pro bouts, went down in the fifth.

But he rose to rock Wilder with a wicked left in the seventh, which he was lucky to escape on his feet what with the referee — that man Fields again — looking keen to call a halt.

Cunningly, Wilder used the eighth and ninth to recuperate, tagging Ortiz with a stinging right towards the end of the latter.

That set up the finalé, and Ortiz was floored twice in the 10th. The second time Fields jumped in and cried mercy.

We have, then, in Joshua and Wilder men who don’t just come to fight but come to fight watchable fights. Given that they are high calibre fighters besides, that makes them precious.

There is a suspicion among boxing’s denizens that Wilder may be the tougher of the two, and maybe only because he has gone 123 rounds to Joshua’s 77. And because Joshua has done more flashy talking than Wilder, who tends to shut up and fight. Or sound like he should when he doesn’t.

They are living different versions of what might be called the boxing life.

Joshua, a former bricklayer, has had brushes with the law for speeding, possession of marijuana and for what he called “fighting and other crazy stuff”.

Wilder has three children with his former wife, Jessica Scales-Wilder and is expecting a fourth with his fiancé, Telli Swift, a star of “WAGS Atlanta”.

That said, Joshua is a keen chess player and a part owner of an upmarket gym in larney Chiltern Street in Marylebone, London.

Wilder was all set to be a gridiron or basketball star at the University of Alabama when his daughter was diagnosed with spina bifida. Instead he went to a less prestigious but nearby community college, where sport was nowhere near as important.

Maybe boxing and boxers are changing: these days Vitali Klitschko is the mayor of Kiev.

‘Golden Eagle’ goes home to roost

Colin Bland not only latched onto the ball seamlessly, he threw it with startling accuracy and speed, and all with keen anticipation of what the batsmen would do or were doing.

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

COLIN Bland was such a fine fielder that he inspired generations of South Africans to follow in his fleet, elegant footsteps.

But he was neither born nor did he die in South Africa: he breathed his first in Bulawayo and his last in London at the weekend, aged 80, after decades of struggle with cancer.

More irony was that Bland’s gift for fielding was so dazzling that he put his own considerable batting ability, which earned him three centuries and nine 50s in 49 Test innings and an average of 49.08, in the shade.

South Africa were 142/2 in their first innings in Sydney in February 1964 when Bland walked to the crease to face an Australia attack led by Graham McKenzie and bowling their hearts out for Richie Benaud, who was playing the 63rd and last Test of his storied career.

More than five-and-a-half hours later Bland gave Benaud’s his 248th and final Test wicket. He was last out for 126 in South Africa’s total of 411.

Against England at the Wanderers that December, South Africa followed on 214 runs behind and were 75/3 when Bland took guard, and 196/5 after the dismissals of Roy McLean and Graeme Pollock.

Bland stood firm for more than four hours for his undefeated 144 to save the match.

He scored his last century, an effort of more than four-and-a-half hours and 126 runs, in the third Test at The Oval in August 1965.

The tall, angular Bland was as classy a batsman as he was a fielder, preferring to drive — on, off or straight — rather than cut or pull.  

Even so, spectators flocked to watch him not only latch onto the ball seamlessly, but throw it with startling accuracy and speed, all with keen anticipation of what the batsmen would do or were doing.

Bland did exactly that to run out the well-set Ken Barrington and Jim Parks in the first match of that series, at Lord’s.

In South Africa’s next match, against Kent at Canterbury, the legend of Bland’s fielding reached its zenith.

“We were late starting because of drizzle and Colin Cowdrey asked me if I would do a little show,” Bland told British daily The Independent in December 1993.

“I was on a hiding to nothing because it was wet but they spoilt me by giving me three stumps — I always practised with one.

“The little lady [luck] must have been sitting on my shoulder as I had about 15 throws and hit the stumps 12 times.

“The best part was at the end when they wanted a close-up of the wicket exploding and they gave six balls to Graeme Pollock. He stood about three yards away and missed all six.

“So I had a go, missed with the first three, knocked middle and off out of the ground with the fourth and the fifth knocked leg stump over.”

Cruelly, it was in the field that Bland’s Test career was ended — he crashed into a boundary fence playing against Australia at the Wanderers in December 1966 and suffered a serious knee injury.

He returned to play 34 more first-class matches for the then Rhodesia, Eastern Province and Free State, the last of them in March 1974.

Bland subsequently coached EP and could be seen in that guise sitting hunched and motionless at the boundary’s edge, taking long, slow draws on a cigarette and gazing, motionless with narrowed eyes, at the arena he once dominated.

He looked even then like the real version of the nickname he had earned long before, and that endured with him: “The Golden Eagle”.

‘Fires everywhere’: SA cricket on cusp of crisis

Most of South Africa’s professional players could be unemployed on May 1.

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

IF all there was to cricket was what happened on the field, the game in South Africa would seem to be in a good place.

Eight wins from 10 tests this summer, five of them against giants Australia and India, would look like success on any balance sheet.

But those facts and figures paper over deep cracks that have put cricket in South Africa on the cusp of crisis.

Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), which governs the relationship between the board and the players, expires at the end of April.

If no new agreement is reached in the next 16 days most of the country’s professionals will be out of work on May 1. 

“We have still not finalised the MOU,” SACA chief executive Tony Irish said. “We are two-and-a-half weeks away from the end of the month and we’re extremely concerned.”

It should be obvious that without players there can be no cricket, but insiders say CSA are ignoring the issue — along with a host of others.

“They’re just not engaging and there are fires burning everywhere,” a senior administrator said.

That they declined to be named, despite voicing legitimate concerns without the implication that they could do a better job, tells us plenty about the seriousness of the situation.

“There’s a fire burning on the [postponed] T20 Global League: they said they would have a model by the end of March but don’t know anything about what’s going to happen.

“There’s still the issue with Haroon, the issue with Altaaf and Clive, the issue with SACA.

“There’s lots of fires and there’s just no engagement — there’s just nothing happening.”

Haroon Lorgat’s handling of the planning for the stillborn T20 league cost him his position as CSA’s chief executive, and Altaaf Kazi and Clive Eksteen — the organisation’s communications head and commercial manager — were suspended after they posed for a photograph with St George’s Park spectators wearing masks that denigrated David Warner’s wife.

Kazi resigned and has since been appointed South African Tourism’s general manager for global public relations, communications and stakeholder relations. An update on Eksteen’s status is expected this week.

Lorgat’s settlement has not been agreed, so he is still being paid his salary despite leaving his post at the end of September.

But those problems are minor compared to what would happen should almost all of the country’s professionals be out of contract at the end of April.

Historically CSA and SACA have enjoyed as healthy a relationship as an employer and trade union could have.

But, as a stalwart suit said, “things have changed quite radically” between the two organisations.

“It’s going to end up in one big problem,” an administrator said. “We’re in a desperate fight all the time to retain our players in the face of other options, not just in England but in the T20 leagues all over the world.

“You can become a Chris Gayle or a Dwayne Bravo and just be a hired gun all around the world, and that’s a much easier life.

“You make more money, you have less pressure, you don’t have the same commitments, you don’t have the media scrutiny on you all the time from a performance point of view. This kind of stuff does not help.”

This kind of stuff extends to the fact that SACA hold the players’ intellectual property rights in trust. So, without a new MOU, neither CSA nor any of the country’s six franchises would be allowed to use the players’ images in their marketing campaigns.

CSA’s apparent non-engagement seems to extend to the press: their president, Chris Nenzani, did not respond to questions.

Why there are no Saffers in Wisden’s Five, and why there’s progress

“We can’t mishit sixes.” – Heather Knight explains why women play cricket more properly than men.

TMG Digital

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

HERE we go again, you can hear South Africans thinking: Wisden has published its Almanack and named its “Five Cricketers of the Year” — and not a man among them is one of ours.

It’s been like this since 2013, which means none of the most recent 25 players so honoured has been South African.

WTF? Coupla things.

Wisden remains the most august authority in the game and it does a magnificent job of chronicling, year in and year out, what happens every time anyone anywhere picks up a bat in seriousness.

That’s quite some task considering 2017 was crammed with 323 matches across the formats. And that’s at senior international level alone.

So you can see why Wisden, while faithfully recording almost everything in the game — backyard stuff, shamefully, doesn’t crack the nod — pays special attention to cricket in England.

Last year that amounted to 66 Tests, one-day internationals and T20 internationals. There were 146 other first-class games to take care of, too. To say nothing of the squillions of non-international list A, T20 and junior matches that also needed to find their spot in the 2018 edition’s 1 488 pages.  

That explains why Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn featured among the famous Five in the Almanack in 2013: South Africa toured England in 2012 and won the series to go top of the Test rankings.

And why there are no South Africans among the awarded this year despite their tour to England last year — they lost the series 3-1, Dean Elgar was their sole centurion and no-one claimed five wickets in an innings.

England offered only two centurions, Joe Root and Ben Stokes, but a five-wicket haul each by James Anderson and Toby Roland-Jones and two by Moeen Ali.

None of them have been selected, either. Instead, for the first time in a tradition that stretches back to 1889, more than one woman is among the honoured.

The gender barrier was broken in 2009 when Claire Taylor was on the list, as Charlotte Edwards was in 2014.

This time there are three: Heather Knight, Natalie Sciver and Anya Shrubsole were important members of England’s 2017 World Cup winning team, and their richly deserve enshrinement in the annals.

Shrubsole has earned the additional accolade of being the first woman to appear on the cover. Anyone who wonders why clearly has not seen her bend the ball’s path through the air, apparently at will. She is the best swing bowler in the game, bar nothing and no-one.

Bravo to Wisden and its editor since 2011, Lawrence Booth, for having the balls to tell what probably remains a largely male, perhaps mostly conservative readership what many of them might not want to hear: women play cricket superbly, often better in a qualitative sense than men.

As Knight told the BBC on Wednesday: “We can’t mishit sixes.”

Men are indeed able to muscle their mistakes over the boundary. Women have to play more properly to clear the ropes. 

South Africans who have seen that kind of light do have an argument to lay at Wisden’s yellow covers.

It has nothing to do with anyone who played in last year’s Test series in England.

Instead, it is that Dané van Niekerk didn’t make the grade despite taking the most wickets at the World Cup: 15, and at the scandalous average of 10.00. She claimed four of them for no runs — a feat no woman nor man has matched — in 20 deliveries against West Indies in Leicester.

So, that not a man among Wisden’s Five is South African makes perfect sense. But Van Niekerk?

It helps to win the World Cup — South Africa lost an electrically tense semi-final to the champions in Bristol — and it bears remembering that Van Niekerk’s 4/0 came in the throes of a dreadful, even by the Windies’ mournful standards, innings of 48.

Still, c’mon Wisden: if Van Niekerk isn’t good enough to earn a leather-bound copy of the grand book embossed with their name in gilt — as is given to every recipient — who is?

But the fact that we can ask that question is indicative of something not often seen in a game too often determined to look backwards at a world moving steadily forward.

It’s called progress.

Don’t bet on sport ever ridding itself of gambling

Television and sport are each other’s life support. What keeps television sport alive? Gambling.

Times SELECT

TELFORD VICE in Cape Town

THINK not a lot could connect a pioneering New York mob boss with the man for whom cricket’s grandest ground is named? Think again.

They are awkward bedfellows because of money, which they knew was readily generated in gambling on sport.

And before television bought sport lock, stock and smoking broadcast rights deals, everything sport achieved as an industry was paid for by gambling.

These days television and sport are each other’s life support. What keeps television sport alive? Gambling.

The life of Arnold Rothstein, nicknamed “The Brain” by Damon Runyon for his reimagining and reorganisation of common thuggery as the profitable business we now call the mafia, was always going to end badly.

It did in November 1928 when he was rubbed out when he refused to pay up after racking up debts of what in today’s money would be US$5-million in a poker game he considered fixed.

If Rothstein’s name rings a bell it’s because he’s the figure most often accused of fixing baseball’s World Series in 1919 — which the Chicago White Sox admitted throwing, creating what the papers enthusiastically wrote up as “the Black Sox scandal”.

Rothstein denied his involvement to a grand jury. Another theory is that he said it ain’t so with reference to one plot but was central to another, and even that he was in on both ends of the fix.

There is less doubt that he fixed more horseraces than you could shake a whip at, including at the track he owned in Maryland.

The son of a banker and the younger brother of a rabbi, Rothstein was a bad man to the bitter end. “Me mudder did it,” he told the cops when they pitched up at his deathbed to ask who shot him.

Thomas Lord, Yorkshire-born but a Londoner all his adult life, was engaged as a general skivvy at the White Conduit Club (WCC) in the days when gentlemen batted and professionals bowled.

Lord was, of course, a bowler among as ripe a collection of cricketing young and old farts as could be found.

In 1786 two of his supposed betters at the WCC, the ninth earl of Winchilsea and the fourth duke of Richmond, known by their titled peers as George Finch and Charles Lennox, tasked Lord, and backed him financially, with finding a ground that was less accessible by the public.

Among the motivations put forward for the move was that Joe and Joanne Soap were sometimes less than complimentary about the poncy players’ efforts. That’s right: what became, in 1787, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was snobbish even before it existed.

Importantly, entry to a ground that was less like a public park and more like today’s stadiums could be controlled by the sale of tickets — and that meant cricket’s burgeoning betting market could be kept from prying eyes and thus more easily manipulated.

After two false starts in other parts of London, what we call Lord’s — don’t forget the indelible apostrophe — opened for  business in June 1814.

And we do mean business. In 1793 alone one of the previous Lord’s grounds hosted 14 matches that attracted a total of 11 000 guineas — a guinea is a pound and a shilling — in bets.

Most of them would have been laid by the earls and dukes of the day, who had inherited money to burn unlike people who had to work for a living.

When the MCC assumed superiority over every organisation in cricket, just a year after the club was founded, their rendition of the laws included regulations on gambling, as had two previous versions issued by other clubs.

You can see where this is going. In 1785, Finch himself — remember him, the ninth earl of Winchilsea — recruited Billy Beldham, then 19 and on his way to becoming a revered player, having seen him in action a year earlier.

In an interview with James Pycroft, a noted writer on cricket, in 1836, Beldham was quoted as saying, “You may hear that I sold matches. I will confess I once was sold myself by two men, one of whom would not bowl, and the other would not bat, his best, and lost 10 pounds.

“The next match, at Nottingham, I joined in selling, and got my money back. But for this once, I could say I never was bought in my life; and this was not for want of offers from C [sic] and other turfmen, though often I must have been accused.

“For where it was worthwhile to buy, no man could keep a character; because to be out without runs or to miss a catch was, by the disappointed betting-men, deemed proof as strong as Holy Writ.”

Which sounds a bit like Hansie Cronje blaming the devil for making him do it. Perhaps South Africa’s crooked captain should have blamed the British aristocracy instead.

Pycroft held up cricket as the epitome of life as a Victorian gentleman: “Cricket is essentially Anglo-Saxon, … Foreigners have rarely imitated us. English settlers everywhere play at cricket; but of no single club have we heard that dieted either with frogs, saur-kraut [sic] or macaroni.”

But, odd ideas and all, he knew corruption when he saw it: “Lord’s [at the turn of the 19th century] was frequented by men with book and pencil, betting as openly and professionally as in the ring at Epsom, and ready to deal in the odds with any and every person of speculative propensities.”

Rothstein, had he been old enough at the time and on the right side of the Atlantic, would doubtless have jumped in, expensive shoes and all, at Lord’s with offers that couldn’t be refused to make sure the ball bounced his bank balance’s way.

Not a lot has changed, except that betting companies now sponsor teams and advertise on mainstream sport websites.

And that the gambling industry has grown exponentially in the internet age. Globally, the online sport and gaming betting business is set to be worth almost US$60-billion by 2020, and most of it will be spent from half a world away by people watching television.

This also holds true in the bricks-and-mortar world. Show me a betting shop and I will show you walls covered in televisions beaming events thousands of kilometres distant. True story: on April 2, 2011 — the day of the cricket World Cup final between Sri Lanka and India in Colombo — I walked into a gambling den in Galle, Sri Lanka and was able to watch live racing from Turffontein, Johannesburg.  

Maybe Rothstein wouldn’t have been shot had he been playing poker from behind a screen in 1928.

Maybe Lord would have cut to the chase and become an online bookmaker, and Lord’s wouldn’t exist.

But it’s no maybe that sport and gambling are as wedded to each other now as they were then, and will be long after television is obsolete and every game we watch — and bet on — is streamed online, perhaps even from empty stadiums.

Don’t think so? Want to bet on it?