Cricket SA has conned India
WELCOME to this week in cricket. On Tuesday, South Africa won the test series in New Zealand. On Friday, they will play India in a one-off T20 match at the Wanderers. Complaining about scheduling, about fatigue, about overkill is futile.
None of the players who featured in the test will play in the T20, which is a sell-out. A couple of new faces will turn out for South Africa, so administrators and cricketers are happy. About 33000 fans will chant their way through 240 balls of smash-and-grab cricket, so they will be happy.
The only people who will not be happy are those who dislike the shortest format. They would not be happy no matter when or why the match was played.
So everyone who can be happy will be happy. Then why does it feel like there is something unhappy about the whole affair?
Because it asks serious questions of whether Cricket SA has any concept of how to, or even pretend to, have a firm grip on credible running of cricket. South Africa will play without AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla or Morne Morkel, three of their first-choice T20 XI. The Indian media have called the squad a B team and while that is not entirely true, given the stature of the three big guns, some of the shine has been taken off.
It also shows a curious disrespect to their Indian counterparts, whom South Africa invited for this match and who are sending what can be considered their best team. MS Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja and R Vinay Kumar - all IPL millionaires - arrived in South Africa this morning. The Indian board turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the IPL franchises who asked for the fixture to be handled differently.
The BCCI honoured their commitment to South Africa even though it will put Indian cricketers at risk of the same strain South Africa have managed to avoid. Sympathy for a cash-craving, cricket-careless board like the BCCI does not come often, but this time it might.
It serves as an illustration that Cricket SA has not always understood that cricket is its product. Its job is to provide the best product available, nothing less.
From a monetary perspective and as a party for the fans, the T20 match will be a great success. To the critical eye, it will be another event in which Cricket SA has failed to gain ground in the good publicity stakes, something it steps further away from too often.
This very week Allan Donald was released from New Zealand because of the heavy work load facing the team this year. Team management got ratty when asked why they did not provide clear information when Donald flew home. That led to suspicion, which led to more questions, which were met by more rattiness. Common sense, anyone?