Loyal servant of the game
TODAY, Vernon Philander should be crowned South African Cricketer of the Year. Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Richard Levi, Johan Botha, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen and Faf du Plessis are likely to win a host of other awards. Chances are none of them will think of Bethuel Buthelezi.
They may not even know who he is. Few in South African cricket will. He is the proverbial Mr Cellophane and most look straight through Buthelezi, not knowing or caring what he does. Luckily, his importance was not forgotten at a slightly less glamorous but much more important function than today's "Oscars".
Three weeks ago at the Gauteng Cricket Board awards evening, Buthelezi received a special award for 20 years of service to the Wanderers stadium. In the last two decades, Buthelezi has done everything, from maintaining the outfield to rolling the pitch just enough to give it that bounce the bowlers love at the Bull Ring.
In his time there, the best innings he saw was Brian Lara's 202 in December 2003 and the players he enjoyed watching most were Ricky Ponting and Glen McGrath. He maintains that he would never want to work at another stadium, such is his dedication to, and pride in, the Wanderers.
Cricket has some big winners. The man to reach the fastest 50 test wickets in over 100 years. The world-record holder for the highest T20 score. The captain who leads with the bat and his heart. And then it has Buthelezi - the man who makes it all possible for those things to be achieved.
With all the winning going on, there has to be a loser. Sadly, it is a big loser. Not only has Durban been robbed of its traditional Boxing Day test, but it will not host a test match in the 2012-13 season at all. And there will be no Boxing Day test match at all either.
Financial considerations have been the driving factor for the scaling down of the post-Christmas cricket activities. The Boxing Day test has been poorly attended for years, both in its usual home in Durban and on the one occasion it was moved to Port Elizabeth in 2007. A T20 is far more likely to draw a full house and even though gate-takings make up only a small portion of revenue, there is some logic to the swap - albeit reasoning some of us may not like.
The same cannot be said for depriving Kingsmead of a test entirely. Before the fixtures were released, there was talk that Durban would not host a test and whispers became louder that the Protea's poor record in the city would have something to do with the decision.
South Africa have not won a test in Durban in four seasons and seem to hate the city so much they stay in the utterly soulless Garden Court Umhlanga instead. If that emerges as the chief reason for there not being a test in Durban, there is only one word to describe the move. Pathetic.