Kingsmead’s name made mud by poor timing

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Durban

“HUNDREDS of thousands” of rand – that’s the closest TMG Digital could get to the amount of money the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union (KZNCU) will lose in the wake of the Kingsmead catastrophe.

But the price to be paid could rise higher still in the wake of a debacle in which the last ball of the first test between SA and New Zealand was bowled at 11.45am on Saturday.

The match was scheduled to finish at 5pm on Tuesday.

On Wednesday the International Cricket Council (ICC) said the match referee, Andy Pycroft, had rated the outfield as “poor”.

That could mean, according to the ICC’s “sanction for substandard pitches and/or outfields”, punishment of “a warning and/or a fine not exceeding US$15 000 given together with a directive for appropriate corrective action”.

Cricket SA (CSA) have 14 days to respond to Pycroft’s report.

The last 11 sessions of the match were lost because of the state of an outfield that had not recovered sufficiently from remedial work done seven weeks before – and that was rendered unplayable by heavy rain on the second night of the match.

That turned parts of the outfield into mud that dried too slowly to apparently satisfy the umpires that players would not be injured should they run over those areas.

KZNCU president Faeez Jaffer said the organisation’s financial losses had yet to be determined, but another administrator said they would be “in the hundreds of thousands”.

The second test starts on Saturday in Centurion, and tests have also been scheduled for St George’s Park, Newlands and the Wanderers this summer. East London and Bloemfontein have also hosted tests in seasons past.

Given all those options, and what has happened this time, should test cricket no longer be played at Kingsmead?

“We are not worried about losing test status,” Jaffer said.

“We still have the ability to host test cricket and we can’t accept blame for the fact that the outfield wasn’t right.

“Maybe the work should have been done earlier.”

CSA have said they opted to decompact the outfields at Kingsmead and Centurion after feedback from the players involved in last season’s one-day series between SA and New Zealand at the same grounds.

But in Tuesday’s edition of The Mercury, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson was quoted as saying his players had problems with Centurion’s outfield but not Kingsmead’s.

Kingsmead groundsman Wilson Ngobese asked for the decompaction project not to go ahead in Durban during CSA’s groundsmen’s conference on May 24 – five days before the Comrades Marathon, when 14 433 runners made their way around the outfield to finish the race. His pleas went unheeded.

Despite Comrades organisers vacating Kingsmead on June 8, the outfield was not touched until June 25. The job was completed on July 1.

On top of that the diggers dug too deep, which meant the grass did not have enough time to recover fully before the test.

Could the KZNCU have told the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) that their ground would not be available this year?

No, not least because the CMA had booked the ground before CSA announced the test schedule.

Besides, Comrades puts around R500 000 into the KZNCU’s coffers and hosting the finish at Kingsmead is exactly the kind of event CSA want their affiliates to be involved in to help them earn funding.

That kind of cash is important to an organisation that pays R6 000 an hour to keep the floodlights on, and that says they can’t afford to spend the R400 000 that would buy enough covers to keep the entire ground under wraps.

Now, more money may have to found to right the wrongs of the past few days.

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