Clap Along If You Feel Like A Room Without A Roof….. The Third Test Ends

The team who write this labour of love sometimes get together to set out the strategic direction this blog should take. They are painfully infrequent, we haven’t all attended one meeting at the same time, and they usually descend into reminiscing about our bad playing days (or in the case of Chris, slightly better). Strategic direction is determining who is purchasing the next round. But on one thing we all agree. We are, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, ’til death, boredom or editorial differences do us part, The BAD NEWS BLOG.

A test like Port Elizabeth isn’t our remit. It isn’t what we are read for. Whether we like it or not. When good things happen, and they have for England, there’s no sense looking for a dark cloud when there isn’t one there.

Like all of you out there, we know the problems with the way cricket is run, the future for counties, the idiotic pursuit of four day cricket, where the public is being gaslighted, should that be a word, by muppets still exist. It’s not gone away because England have summarily dismissed a team that beat them well three or so weeks ago. The fault lines haven’t disappeared due to hugely promising performances by Ollie Pope and Dom Bess, to name two. The rancour and bitterness can be put away for another day to recognise the skills of Ben Stokes, and the return of Mark Wood. Hell, we can even consider Ed Smith on another day when the team now looks like it has something to build upon.

England started the day needing four wickets, and got them before lunch. Sure, there was a breezy 99 run last wicket partnership to set off curmudgeons and bores on Twitter raving on about team over individual performances, but the result wasn’t in doubt unless it rained, and it didn’t until it was too late. Root did not get his five-for, which seemed to be upsetting people that he should actually go for it, but it was neither here nor there. It amazes me that people like Selvey could get that wound up about THIS, but on 2014 he was but a supportive flower, appealing to everyone’s better nature for the saker of England. Root trying to achieve something he will probably never do again… Hang him, flog him! The priorities and things that they get concerned about will never be understood by this mere blogger.

England won by an innings and whatever. They are 2-1 up in the series. They have turned around a difficult start to look very good in their last two outings. Much will be focused on the home side’s inadequacies, but inadequate teams have beaten England before, and will again. What we are seeing is development, and yes, I like it. I thought Sibley looked out of his depth, but I was massively impressed by that hundred in Cape Town, not least he didn’t get to a hundred and pack it in. I think Zak Crawley is growing into the game, he’s nowhere near there yet, but persevere with him, please. There is no need to call back Keaton Jennings. None. Joe Denly is now mentioned as someone to drop, when he continues to blunt attacks and occupy the crease. Sure he’s not someone who should be an automatic choice, but he’s hardly letting the side down at the moment. And a word of caution on Ollie Pope. This will, I hope, be the first of many, but he’s still a work in progress, and I would caution patience. He’s going to go through a trot of some very bad looking dismissals in his career.

Someone else can comment on bowling. As a former very bad batsman, I am now qualified. All I know is that there is healthy competition. You can’t help but want Mark Wood to do well (I loved that catch yesterday off Root, the sort all club cricketers can relate to, the climbing the ladder hamstrung by your own relationship with gravity….). Archer’s elbow is a cause for concern, so rest it some more if you aren’t 100% sure. But this is for another day.

From my angle this wicket was part of test match cricket’s rich tapestry. Wickets had to be earned, scoring wasn’t easy unless you were very well set. The bowlers got something out of it, half of the hosts wickets falling to spin speaks volumes. There were excellent hundreds, and yet wickets could fall. I think, sometimes, we react to quickly to this stuff, but also recognise that other opinions are available and valid.

So on to Johannesburg. There’s already talk of quicker pitches, not picking a spinner, playing the surface, not the opposition. Stuff that. I think for this England team it’s imperative we bat first – I have a lot more faith in them doing that than responding to any sort of total – and that we make runs. They are already talking about leaving out a spinner and playing five seam bowlers. I genuinely hope not.

But, in conclusion, it has to be said, I liked this win. I liked how the team played. I like a fair number of the players within it, and I am genuinely happy how they got this win in a rain-affected match on a slow wicket. It’s nice. But as always, let’s act like we’ve been there before, let’s know that a poor performance could be just around the corner, and let’s not poll this as “greatest away win ever” as the BBC did for something that happened very recently.

England won’t lose in South Africa again. That’s a good record dating back to the Leather Jacket tour. Away wins, however they come, are good. This one made me happy. So clap along….. and ask yourself, if your room didn’t have a roof, wouldn’t you be mad? Especially when it rained this afternoon in PE!


18 thoughts on “Clap Along If You Feel Like A Room Without A Roof….. The Third Test Ends

  1. growltiger Jan 20, 2020 / 5:09 pm

    I think you are right that England will never lose in South Africa again. I am not entirely sure they will tour again, either. I am sad about the demise of South African cricket, which seems institutionally crippled and incapable of recovery. After all the great players (and great sides) that have been produced since reinstatement, this is tragic. Why they could overcome essentially similar problems in Rugby but not cricket is a puzzle. You cannot play great cricket without doughty opponents, but it seems to be all up with the Proteas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dlpthomas Jan 21, 2020 / 8:41 am

      “England won’t lose in South Africa again.”
      Did Wolfie mean England will never loose in South Africa again because that’s a big call. I took that to mean that they can’t loose this series and so, once again, they “won’t loose in South Africa”.


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 23, 2020 / 10:53 pm

        I meant they can’t lose this series. I would never be presumptuous that England would win any future series. Never.


  2. Marek Jan 20, 2020 / 5:14 pm

    “There is no need to call back Keaton Jennings…”

    What a relief! I don’t actually have a problem taking him to Sri Lanka as the reserve top-order batsman, on the basis that he has at least scored a couple of centuries in Asia and I can’t see any alternatives who are markedly better (Azad from his one season in div 2? Dent with an career average of 38 in div 2? Completely out-of-form Nick Browne? Nah, can’t see it)–with some big provisos.

    One is that it’s absolutely only for Asia–he must average well under 20 outside Asia.

    Second is that there’s no reason for him to replace Crawley or Sibley in the starting XI, because his record in Asia is actually rather overstated: even there, he has as many scores of over 26 as he does scores of 1 or 0, and if I remember correctly he was dropped on 0 during his debut century too, which if taken would have reduced his Asia average to not much more than 30 even with a big not-out hundred.


  3. Metatone Jan 21, 2020 / 9:42 am

    I’m glad England played quite well and it’s nice to see them win, but I’m holding off judgement on “progress” until we see them lose the toss and have to respond to a big total. I don’t even mean that they need to win or draw from such a position, but I want to see them be competitive.

    Still, big positive that we can put up a big score – you don’t have to go back very far at all to see us fail in this.

    Bowling, I didn’t see enough of play to comment in depth, but I think SA’s batsmen gave Bess quite a few wickets in the 1st innings and 2 concerns come to mind:

    1) I think we need a few more games to really get a sense of Bess’ strengths and weaknesses.

    2) On another day, another team might not fold at the sight of Bess and before we got to the tail, the seamers didn’t look great. There were portents of Broad getting old, Curran looked rather toothless, Wood seemed to be set to carry on being fast, looking threatening but not getting wickets.

    Much of that looked better in the 2nd innings of course, but following on does things to batsmen’s minds. Overall, England face the same old bowling questions: do we have a plan when the surface doesn’t bring lateral movement?

    Of course, the answer is partly “Archer” – but then we get to the 2nd question – do we have a plan to use Archer beyond bowling him into the ground?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 21, 2020 / 11:11 am

    SA still has a reasonable bowling side, so to score nearly 500, slow/low wicket or not is quite an achievement considering England could barely muster 400 in an innings for around 2 years or so. Yes, SAs batting line was indeed pretty awful and has only got worse over the last four years. Positions 1 &2 look stronger as a unit than they have for a long time and 4/5 & 6 appears to be potentially very good too.

    I agree with the reservations over the bowling. I only hope Root will learn to use Archer like he did with Wood, i.e. shorter, sharper bursts. We do need the emergence of a skilled seamer a la Broad or Anderson. I’m not sure that there is one who fits the bill mind. A whole host of county seamers pick up stacks of wickets in April, May and September on pitches that are tailor made for them due to climatic conditions that they simply won’t get elsewhere. They will simply look anaemic like Sam Curran away from those conditions.


    • dArthez Jan 21, 2020 / 12:53 pm

      Stat attack!

      England supporters used to complain that England struggled to get 400, but at least on occasion they went past 300. Even that is beyond South Africa these days. Since AB retired nearly 2 years ago, they have done that twice in the team’s first innings – against India in India (1st Test 2019) and against Pakistan in Cape Town. In the former, South Africa still lost by 200 runs, and India had no problems in scoring 500 in the first innings and 300+ in the second (so it was not exactly a massive minefield), and in the latter Pakistan were already bundled out for less than 180, so obviously there was little pressure on the batting then.

      There are more sub-200 scores in there (again in the team’s first innings). That is 2 300+ scores in 13 Tests. That results in an average first innings score of 246 (and no, it is not even skewed by a single declaration).

      Yet they persist in playing 5 bowlers; apparently the batting is in such great shape that thy consider 246 good enough.

      In terms of results, there have been 3 losses by an innings and plenty, another 6 with margins of more than 100 runs (4 of which were by more than 180 runs, which is a massive shellacking) or 8 wickets or worse, one Kusal Perera special, and 4 wins, 3 of which came against a hapless Pakistan side in South Africa.

      So, on the evidence of the loss margins, I really do not see why people think the bowling of South Africa is that great, since the bowling average in the same period is 34.43, nearly 10 runs worse than what the batsmen score. Sure there have been some trashings in India, but it also includes 8 home Tests, and just 5 on the road (3 in India, and 2 in Sri Lanka), and the stats at home are not that much better than on the road.

      In the same period, the last 5 wickets averaged 28 for England (14 Tests), and sure the wickets may have been better for England than South Africa (though England had not that many problems in Sri Lanka, which was also included in the English sample), but basically the English bowlers get as many runs as the South Africa specialist batsmen. And that is even true for this series, since South Africa have more often been

      Maharaj is the only bowler / allrounder who even made a 50 in the first innings in that same period (he makes up for that by averaging 6 in the other 9 innings he batted in – and that 72 was a top score in the innings, but by the time Maharaj entered the fray after the fall of the 8th wicket South Africa were already staring at a first innings deficit of close to 400 runs, so we can rightfully consider that a prelude to Port Elizabeth against England).

      4 out of 6 innings, South Africa have reached 100 after losing at least the first four wickets in this series against England, and both times they failed to giftwrap 4 wickets to England was in Cape Town, and that was not exactly the liveliest pitch imaginable..

      So they play 5 bowlers, and there is little evidence that any of the bowlers other than Philander can be considered even close to being an allrounder (although sample sizes are really limited, due to injuries, rotation, and Olivier disappearing to Kolpakshire). It should be noted though that Philander faced more first innings balls, than the likes of Markram, Bavuma (despite those two playing in more Tests than Vernon), and averages more balls per innings than Amla de Bruyn, and is roughly equal to Hamza in that respect.

      Other than Quinton de Kock (almost 50), no other batsman even averages 35 in the first innings. Sure, for some batsmen (van der Dussen in particular) the sample size is small, but for the likes of du Plessis, Bavuma, Elgar, Markram they are quite substantial


      • dArthez Jan 22, 2020 / 8:32 am

        Sorry, it is 3 losses by an innings and plenty, 4 losses by 180+ runs, and one loss by 1 wicket, and one by 8 wickets.

        All of which are basically suggesting that South Africa would have needed a third innings to be (remotely) competitive.


  5. Sir Peter Jan 21, 2020 / 12:36 pm

    You underestimate your bowling Mi’Lud as many did…and sorry we had to leave the BullRing on the brink of a win


  6. quebecer Jan 23, 2020 / 3:14 am

    I’ve been thinking about Joe Root (a bit). Darthez said the other day that Faf wasn’t a very good captain (and he’s clearly to be trusted on matters RSA) but I’m not sure. In the post match press conference, Joe called Faf a good ‘leader’, and I think in all fairness to Faf, he has been that for South Africa. And let’s be honest, it hasn’t been easy. Even for he himself, he wasn’t in the same class as a batsman as his contemporaries (didn’t he go to school with AB?) and was very much the less fashionable more gritty player playing between them, rather than ahead of them. And then all of a sudden, he’s captain AND their most important batsman, the latter point being quite a difficult position for him to be in. But whatever else, Faf has been a leader. It was all about his country, and the team’s effort, and I think he can be very proud of what he’s done in this sense since taking over.

    Alternatively, Joe isn’t exactly a leader of men in that mould. However, I’m going to be nice about Joe. Firstly, again, a horrid batting side to captain, but not the easiest bowling unit either. Since taking over (and there really was no-one else) he’s been battling the technical issues that crept in to his game when he decided to be more expansive to play in the shorter formats, and that’s meant not only a drop off in his own production, but he’s also had to endure the whole blame of his batting being affected by the captaincy meme. On top of that, the obvious but overlooked point that as our only top order batsman, his reduced production means that he as the captain of the team is just getting nothing out of his top 4.

    Yes, bowling changes and handling of bowlers, and yes field placings, not great, but then again, he’s getting better. But the thing I also think is seemingly unexamined is that many of his perceived captaincy issues might well be systemic rather than on him. One example would be the handling of certain players – say, Broad, Anderson, or Bairstow. However, isn’t Joe just a reflection of what English cricket is like in this respect? A second example would be something Vic Marks pointed out regarding the end of the last test where they put on whatever it was for the last wicket and Root bowled way too much and had terrible plans from the other end. Vic said Australia would never have allowed that partnership, but really he was saying that Australians would never have adopted the behaviours to allow it. But Joe is English, from the English system, and I think some of his personal criticisms are really more a reflection of what our game is in England. Given this is literally all Joe Root has ever known in his life, when his captaincy reflects this, it shouldn’t really be a surprise.

    Joe’s trying hard, and it’s not easy, so for once I’ll be magnanimous and give him full credit for his efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dArthez Jan 23, 2020 / 9:13 am

      Yeah, AB and Faf were teammates in school. Faf was de captain then, AB the star batsman.

      Just a small caveat, when I wrote that Faf was not very good, I meant very good as say 9 out of 10, rather than not good (as a polite way of saying bad),which obviously would be more like 5 out of 10.

      I will immediately grant you that Faf did not exactly get the easiest job in the world. And it was always going to be a poisoned chalice. No Smith, no Kallis, a massively declined Amla and AB who could seemingly not decide whether to be a batsman or a commentator on Twitter. So the only batting quality he sort of inherited from the side were Elgar and de Kock, and Steyn was obviously near the end of his career. It also does not help that Abbott finally got his chance, only to go off to Kolpakshire and a bit later the same happened with Olivier. If you have to replace those with say Nortje and Ngidi, who have far less experience between them in domestic / international cricket, then obviously the bowling also takes a massive dip (and the raw numbers also mask a decline in the quality of South African domestic cricket, which is alarming as well). I picked Nortje here, because quite a few bowlers have been tried (Phehlukwayo, Mulder, Pretorius, Nortje, Pretorius, Paterson) but none of them have made the spot their own. Though I do think that South Africa could do worse than persevering with Nortje (unless they want to avoid risking another signing by Kolpakshire in the next few weeks).

      One way to shore up things is by scoring consistent runs. Faf has struggled in that department for quite some time. The 2017 stats are seriously improved by his effective 242/1 against Bangladesh at home (otherwise he’d average 38 instead of 55), 2018 saw an average of 24 with 1 hundred and 2 50s from 20 innings (with those 2 fifties coming in the first 2 Tests and that ton in the third innings of the final Test against Australia, when Australia had long since consigned themselves to being dead and buried and they subsequently lost by nearly 500 runs in Morkel’s last Test), and his form has been rather average since then. Not Johnny Bairstow average, but not anything spectacularly good either.

      That being said, if you are making allowances for Root to decline due to limited overs cricket, the same holds far stronger for players from outside the Big 3, who can earn far more in T20 leagues than representing the nation. And his limited overs contributions have been very good. It is no real surprise that only players form the Big 3 can think of being able to afford to be Test players (we can forget about getting a South African Pujara, or a New Zealand version of Archer – England do have the means and money to turn him into a Test specialist bowler with proper management, in the same way Broad and Anderson are operating which is unheard of in the rest of the cricketing world these days, maybe with the exception of R. Ashwin, but he makes quite a bit of money in the IPL anyway as a domestic player).

      Captaincy is obviously more than leading from the front – and there are matters such as on-field decisions, creating a good team environment and work with the limitations you have as a side, and lots of behind the scenes stuff. I do feel that some of the decisions taken on the field have been poor – obviously that is not all on Faf, as muddled thinking is often evidence of organisational confusion, that there is a lack of clarity on means and methods. Which actually sums up CSA’s general incompetence in the last few years. Further evidence of said organisational decay is the appointment of Quinton de Kock as ODI captain, in a manner that serve to maximise confusion. Obviously, that is not something that should be held against any player.

      It was bizarre that Faf got all worked up to get a 50* at home against Sri Lanka, by not shielding the tail as the Sri Lankan bowlers were running rampant, and it was not exactly the case that the lead was insurmountable. South Africa duly lost despite taking a first innings lead of nearly 100 runs against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth.
      Which is why it is so utterly confusing to play just 5 specialist batsmen, if one observes that the batting is having serious issues. And the stats really suggest that as 80/4 is more the norm than the exception these days.

      What does a fifth bowler add to the side that the first four do not contribute? Obviously selection is not solely on Faf, but he should be the one to talk frankly to the selector (yeah, for quite some time only Linda Zondi had a contract for that) about the obvious holes in the lineup. Picking a fifth bowler so that you don’t have to pick a non-contributing batsman (whether that is de Bruyn or Bavuma) avoids addressing the issue of non-performing batsmen – there might be others who were / are worth a shot as batsmen. But Faf’s hands are unreasonably tied there as well. He can’t give preferential treatment to players who are not doing as well as they should.
      Especially not in South Africa, because any criticism of say de Bruyn as a batsman, will suggest that Bavuma is favoured, and any criticism of Bavuma, well, you can imagine the storm it could create. Societal problems can often be magnified in sport. And yes of course, de Bruyn has a really poor average, but if you have played 12 Tests, while playing in the same batting position no more than 3 Tests, shoved up and down the order from anywhere between an opener and batting at 7, then obviously, your performances will suffer (ask Moeen). Likewise if you play 39 Tests, and only scored 1 hundred on a road in Cape Town (Stokes made a double there), then yeah, questions will be asked about a practically non-existent conversion rate. So you have to be extremely diplomatic in front of the cameras, far more than say Joe Root needs to be. If Joe Root wants to say that Buttler is underperforming massively in his role, and that he wants an actual wicketkeeper, that would be noticed, but it would not be transformed into a massive national debate that included the majority of the population that does not follow cricket, or does not care about cricket per se.

      It is obviously impossible to judge how well Faf has done behind the scenes, in trying to squeeze out the most of the talent that South Africa do have available to them, that decent decisions are made with regards to the restructuring of domestic cricket, and all the politics surrounding cricket, cricket selection, and investment in cricket facilities (for which he obviously is not responsible, but say one wrong word, and you’re a lightning rod for all kinds of anger and frustration).

      In terms of trying to hold things together, I would say that he has done extremely well, but on the field I am not sure the same can be said, even if we have to insist on the caveats that organisational incompetence does affect the team and the players negatively.


      • Quebecer Jan 23, 2020 / 5:16 pm

        Excellent. Thank you! All those years ago BTL the best part was people with knowledge I don’t have, explaining and informing. Great to encounter that again. It’s almost as if this is what the internet is for.


      • Grenville Jan 23, 2020 / 8:09 pm

        I have the impression, though it’s no more than a hunch, that after the last but one World Cup (2015 in Oz and NZ?), a lot of white South African cricketers felt aggrieved about the way ‘transformation’ was being implemented. If I remember, an in form bowler was dropped for a fit again Philander and South Africa promptly lost. Again if memory serves, Philander was in fact one of the leading ODI bowlers in the world at the time and actually they should have dropped Steyn who was woefully under performing. In other words, a tough selection. Anyway, whatever the selectors’ logic there was a lot of whispers and contradictory statements about quotas. It seemed to me that at that point, AB, in particular but other lesser luminaries too, felt they weren’t going to miss out on maximising their earnings to play for a country that, in their view, didn’t want them. Faf, again I stand to be corrected knocked some heads together and tried to build a team based around commitment to South Africa and hope for a better future. Did we have the tour to Oz shortly after and something dramatic in Hobert and a series win?

        I could be completely wrong and maybe I’m just projecting because I like his name, but I’ve always had a lot of time for him as a consequence.

        Just to add, in my narrative the AB-style guard have wrestled back some measure of control. The charitable, and probably correct explanation of the predominately white replacements in the management roles, is that new ethos is that the best way to achieve a racial transformation is to create a winning team.

        Hopefully people with knowledge will shoot me down.


        • dArthez Jan 23, 2020 / 9:19 pm

          There was lots of controversy around the Abbott dropping in the world cup. There are so many stories going around, that no one but those directly involved actually knows what happened, and what the reasoning behind the decision was. We can make educated guesses, but I doubt that we’ll ever know certainly what transpired.

          The problem is that due to the collapsing Rand, and the shortfalls at CSA, players were increasingly starting to look elsewhere for their pay-day. CSA is trying to restructure the domestic game as well, and that is supposed to come with pay-cuts. Players are not too excited about that, to say the least. So real incomes for cricketers declined substantially; and that is even not considering the context of transformation, which limited the opportunities for White players in particular (because they are historically overrepresented from a purely demographical perspective, as a result of being in the richer economic brackets). And while the players leaving for other shores are mostly if not all White, that is simply because they are (due to higher numbers relative to the population share) under the most pressure to perform well and get those elusive contracts for White players. And of course, if you are from a highly desirable pool, without having to face too much competition (relatively speaking of course) you will have far fewer reasons to think about moving countries.

          Obviously there is a massive socio-economic factor at play (and it is fair to say, that Rabada and Bavuma for instance, are not exactly representative of the average Black family in terms of opportunities they had available to them). We can’t expect CSA to fix the South African economy, so that won’t change anytime soon.

          Abbott got his chance, after a Steyn injury in 2015 if I am not mistaken. He was not being helped by the fact that Morkel, Steyn and Philander were all pretty good up to then as well, and hardly ever injured. Abbott did well in Test cricket, and signed at some point for Kolpakshire. And we must not forget that Abbott for instance had to sit out the first Test in Australia, because Steyn had just returned from injury. Steyn, Philander and Rabada were playing alongside Maharaj, only for Steyn to get injured again in the first Test. So he was not even guaranteed to play(!), and only played in the second and third Test of that series.

          Financial security did play a role there. As undoubtedly it did for many other players. For Abbott, I think someone did the math and calculated that in terms of earnings domestic cricket in England paid just as well as a full international career with South Africa over the same period , but that a single injury / loss of form / not being picked for whatever reason would cost Abbott nothing if he played domestic cricket in England, but an enormous amount of money if he played for SA. As a bowler, you always consider the risk of injury and loss of form, especially when the competition is fierce.

          An Indian friend of mine and I got talking just now, and somehow we ended up thinking of the Bangalore Test against South Africa in 2015 (50 months ago or so). Fully 5 out of 11 players from that team are now playing as Kolpaks in England (Vilas, van Zyl, Amla, Abbott and Morkel). Harmer, who did not play in that particular match, but played in the series, ended up in England as well. So it it is also hard to maintain a team if people can be poached with better contracts left right and centre.

          In short, there is a lot of tension in cricket in South Africa bubbling underneath the surface, and with the incentives heavily skewed towards T20 leagues, or at least playing cricket outside of South Africa, it has been extremely challenging to maintain the standards and to keep the players available.


          • LordCanisLupus Jan 23, 2020 / 10:49 pm

            A quick thanks for all the insight on South Africa, D. Very much appreciated.


          • Grenville Jan 23, 2020 / 11:19 pm

            Thanks. It’s super helpful.

            I was trying to put across an impression I have of Faf and not pass judgement on South African cricketers’ motives. I guess your saying that although 2015 was a turning point, it’s much more to do with the Big 3 and the collapsing Rand than bitterness over the way transformation was operating. I’m still going to like Faf for his name, even if he can’t be a heroic sort of figure trying to keep the flame of the new South Africa alive.


          • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 6:16 am

            2015 was also partly a turning point, because by 2015, the old batting guard was ‘done’. Smith, Kallis, Boucher retired. Amla and Steyn declining / almost permanently injured, so they had to get new players to replace them. Which is never an easy task, even if there is no massive turmoil (ask Australia in January 2011).

            When he announced his Kolpak deal to South African team mates, Abbott was extremely torn on his decision. So I would not say that anyone makes such decisions lightly, or that these are easy decisions to make. They are not. If you decide to migrate across the world to try and forge a career playing cricket, that takes a lot of courage, and a lot of character, since obviously you won’t be “home” (where you grew up, where your friends and family are)m you have to adjust to live in a new place, and all that. You have no one to fall back on, it is all on you. That takes a lot of confidence and self-belief.

            Of course transformation plays a role. Because it impacts on the number of people from any population group who are eligible to get contracts. But it is not the cause or even the main problem for cricket in South Africa.
            As said before, the reason that it is almost exclusively White players who try their luck elsewhere, we can’t forget that the playing base is also predominantly White, and the structures to discover talent and nurture it as well. Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool is not exactly in the middle of nowhere in the Eastern Cape (and residents there would probably not be able to afford all the fees), and the same holds for the other prestigious schools.

            You have to be extremely good if you have to be among the top 90 White players in South Africa, whereas in say 2003 you only had to be among the best 200 cricketers to get a contract. While for Black players they had to be among the best 200 in 2003, but now “only” have to be among the best 90 Black players. Not saying that that is easy, mind you!
            But due to difference in the size of the population pools they are drawn from, and the challenges people in these pools face, the former may well be a lot harder than the latter (in terms of absolute cricketing skills). Black players face a lot of challenges as well, such as poverty and all its associated ills, lack of access to facilities, hostile attitudes towards them etc (yeah, I am certainly not going to deny that there is racism in South Africa). Quite a few of those problems are socio-economic in nature, but with just skin colour being used as measures of transformation all that gets lost in the process (and that is also true in the political sphere in South Africa).

            But any competition for scarce resources (contracts in this case) will lead to people dropping out in the process. And it is not necessarily the best that manage to get them, but the ones who (feel they) can afford to stick around long enough to get them. You also see it in the workplace in general.
            That is also true in England. Are the 400 or so players with county contracts really the best 400 cricketers in England? Doubtful. There must have been players who have fallen to the wayside, due to poverty, academic demands (for instance among the British Asian population), lack of inclusion, and we can go on.

            Even if transformation were abolished tomorrow, that will do nothing to develop cricket infrastructure, it will do nothing to improve pay in domestic cricket (even if you buy the argument that performances would increase, and thus that more sponsorship opportunities open, in terms of television rights that might even lead to a decrease in value and visibility as well. Most South Africans do not have Supersport, and the SABC, the national public broadcaster is not exactly swimming in cash to pay for anything at the moment – which is also a tricky balancing act). People will still leave South Africa to try and forge cricket careers in England, in New Zealand, Australia and where not, because there is not that much money in the game in South Africa.

            Sure, some of those people who leave might have racist attitudes, or do not see the importance of transformation. I think most of them do see the importance of transformation, but that practical considerations (such as ‘geez I spent ten years developing my skills, I’d actually like to forge a career out of cricket now and feed my family’) are the bigger driving force behind the exodus from South Africa. In short the issue is scarcity of opportunity and scarcity of resources, and obviously, those cannot be resolved.

            Imagine if football were run like cricket. Would the national teams of Brazil, Argentina, any African team even have any decent players, other than maybe the U-17s? And would World Cups not be constantly be decided between the major economic powerhouses of Europe? If international cricket is to be saved, the whole international body of the game needs a complete overhaul.


  7. dArthez Jan 23, 2020 / 3:29 pm

    Looks like England Under-19s had a massive choke against Australia and are out of the U-19 World Cup.. could not defend 40 from 18 balls, with Australia just having 2 wickets left.

    At least they can choke, unlike South Africa these days …


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