TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
TOILETS clean? Check. Enough beer in the fridges? Check. Jumping castle nice and plump? Check. “We’re busy with the last-minute runaround, but I think we’re ready,” Heinrich Strydom, the chief executive of North West Cricket, said three days before Sunday’s second one-day international between SA and New Zealand.
All good. But the cricketminded folk of Potchefstroom should have taken a long look at the men in green and gold: it could be a while before they see them in action again.
In future, the national team will be confined to the country’s five highest ranked venues. Places like Potch, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, East London, Paarl and Benoni are unlikely to make that list.
But they all boast grounds where SA have established a relationship with their supporter base. In fact, cricket has set itself apart from sports like rugby and football by taking the team to smaller centres.
Those days are numbered thanks to cricket’s growing corporatisation. “It forms part of a new dispensation announced by Cricket SA (CSA) which is geared to maximise income generation by only allocating internationals to be hosted by the main five stadiums in SA,” the WP Cricket Association said in a press release.
But does that threaten the emotional bond South Africans who do not live in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Centurion or Port Elizabeth like to think they have with the team who say they play for them?
“We were sold out (on Wednesday), which means people here are hungry for cricket,” Strydom said. “I’d like to provide the public with more international cricket but I understand CSA’s position.”
So do those who run the glitzier venues. Dolphins chief executive Pete de Wet was quoted as saying in a press release detailing recent upgrades at Kingsmead, “… in the light of CSA now grading the top five stadiums annually and awarding international fixtures accordingly, we hope that the stadium improvements … will contribute to even more international cricket coming to Durban”.
The catch 22 is that cricket in KwaZulu-Natal is more moneyed than in Griqualand West. What chance does Kimberley stand of buying its way into the big five?
“We didn’t want to sit back and mope, so we’ve approached local government for assistance,” Eugene Jacobs, the chief executive of the Griqualand West Cricket Board, said.
“Obviously the public want to see the Proteas, but financially we benefit from the new model. From a cricket administrators’ point of view we’re very happy. But from the public perspective it is a concern.”
All that said, England will play a one-day international in Bloemfontein on February 3 while the lesser lights among touring teams could yet find themselves in East London.
And it’s not as if big cricket goes there regularly: Sunday’s game was only the 75th of the 466 home games SA have played that has not been staged in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth or Centurion.
But that slice of the cake – just 1.61% thick – seems set to get even skinnier.