Leading Edge: Talent or the box? Conservatives decide

Sunday Times


FEW sports draw the moths of conservatism to their flame as inexorably as cricket. Helmets and marketing aside, a test played in 2016 looks pretty much like a test played in 1966, which would look pretty much like a test played in 1916 – if the first World War had not stopped test cricket from being played.

And test cricket, mind, is considered the pinnacle of the game. It’s as if cricket would rather its one-day and T20 versions did not exist.

Pity they make most of the game’s money …

Oh well, in that case we’ll just have to live with them in the same way that the western world continues to do business with China despite that country’s medieval approach to human rights.

Now, there’s nothing conservatives like more than boxes; not the kind cricketers shove down the front of their trousers but the kind that are put around concepts and people, often erroneously.

Conservatives do this to make sense of these concepts and people in their invariably small, defensive minds, and to quell their fears that there is stuff out there that they just don’t understand.

So, show a cricket conservative a player and they will have a box readymade for that player. It won’t of course, be a bespoke box: it will have been used many times before and will be used many more times in future.

Hashim Amla? Test player, nothing else. David Miller? Short format player, nothing else.

It is to be celebrated that Amla has long since escaped his box, a feat aided and abetted by the fact that much about him is different from his fellows.

Amla’s otherness relative to most of his teammates is a useful defense against the conservatives, especially for someone of his obvious quality as a player and a person.

He has made himself into a fine batsman whatever the format, and he has done so without deviating from the core of the player he has always been. But, happily for Amla, not many would have had the balls to tell him to his face he couldn’t do it.

However, from the distance of yonder television Miller would appear to be a bog standard boykie; a bloke to have a beer and a boerie roll on the beach with, and bugger the bluebottles.

And, at least partly because of that, he is a prime candidate for a box he is so deep in it’s difficult to imagine how he might make good his escape.

Miller last scored a first-class century going on three years ago. In fact, he bagged one in each innings for the Dolphins against the Lions in Potchefstroom.

Say what you will about the flatness of Potch’s pitch and the state of franchise cricket, but accept that all of SA’s players have been produced by that system – the same system has given Miller only nine first-class matches since that game. In almost three years. How does anyone make it out of their box on those terms?

Not that the conservatives, snug in their own boxes, will see what all this fuss is about.

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