Space is limited. Time is precious.
There are only so many words available for each sport, each week, in this newspaper, and the African Cup of Nations deserves the lion’s share today and for the next few editions. We all have something to look forward to, and Gordon Igesund has promised us a pleasant surprise.
So let’s not use up too much of cricket’s allocation on the Cricket South Africa (CSA) board meeting this week, which resulted in the decision to restructure itself into a trimmer size 12. It is good news and pretty close to the recommendations made by the government-appointed Nicholson Commission – except that the directors then voted to reappoint four more in 18 months’ time, bloating the board back up to a podgy size 16. At least seven of them will be independent appointees.
Enough said. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It won’t come as a surprise to any cricket lovers if the Proteas beat New Zealand’s Black Caps again in the second Test starting at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Friday. It would be a far greater surprise if they did not.
The mere sight of Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and the rest of the crew doing their special work should be enough to set the pulses racing. Special players, special times – an era we longed for while Australia dominated all and sundry.
The Proteas do not need to play seven specialist batsmen against New Zealand. Against England and Aus-tralia it was a prudent though overly cautious move, one that contributed greatly to victory in both series. The time is right to select a new player at number seven – if not Thami Tsolekile as keeper, then certainly a bowling all-rounder.
The continuing ruckus over the composition of a new CSA board is also dominating sports pages at a time when on-field performances should be making all the headlines. Will the CSA directors adopt the recommendations of the Nicholson inquiry? It seems unlikely – and not while personal agendas prevail over those of the greater good.
What have the players been up to between the overwhelming innings victory at Newlands and today’s second Test? Some have simply rested, fulfilled sponsor obligations and gone to the gym.
But several others took the time to support a few worthy causes. The Jacques Kallis Scholarship Foundation received two new beneficiaries from a golf day on Monday organised and funded by the great Barry Richards, whose son Mark took his own life on May 11 2009. His cause was Youth Focus, which aims to concentrate a largely preoccupied world’s attention on the subject of depression and suicide among teenagers and young people.
It is a subject easily and conveniently avoided but it covers every sphere of society.
It is also especially pertinent to cricket, which requires players to spend a long time away from family and loved ones and has a depression and suicide rate among ex-players as high as that of ex-army and ex-police personnel.
Vernon Philander agreed to participate in the fundraising golf day but had received no details until an hour before his scheduled tee-off time. It transpired that the organisers had been sending information to an old phone number. When they located him, he dropped everything and made it to the start with minutes to spare.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum also made it, along with Jeetan Patel, who had received a pasting from the Protea batsmen during their innings victory in the first Test at Newlands.
Some cricketers have an innate understanding of where their profession lies in the greater scheme of things, and others learn it along the way. Great Australian batsman David Boon, now an ICC match referee and in charge of the current series, was once the epitome of the man’s man – beer-drinking and run-scoring records appreciated in equal measure by the simpleton supporters of cricket.
Now, many years later, he has a teenage daughter experiencing the vicissitudes of life and is prepared, as Richards says, to “put his hand up” and ask the world to take notice. The archetypal Aussie hard man is prepared to admit he does not have all the answers, and is prepared to ask for help.
And people are prepared to give it. As a result, two more scholars with cricketing potential were funded to the tune of R60 000 each to continue their high school education at traditional cricketing schools. And somewhere, quietly, somebody will make a difference to a young man or woman battling to come to terms with the real world and all its warts.
Those in charge of the game in South Africa would do well to think about what they are fighting for. The protection of their province or franchise? Their vote at an annual general meeting? The influence and power their position affords them? Really? Is that really what is important?,