Make sure your son is born in January

In 2008 the American author Malcolm Gladwell published a thought-provoking, non-fiction book. “Outliers: The Story of Success” was an instant, international best-seller. Through a series of case studies, Gladwell sought to dispel the myth that successful people are self-made. Instead, he insists that successful people, in whatever field of human endeavour, “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” According to Gladwell, in many instances great men and women are the beneficiaries of fortuitous timing. Their recipes for success are therefore nothing mysterious but simply the synthesis of timing and opportunity dedicated to a specific task. To prove this particular hypothesis, Gladwell made an intensive study of the birth dates of professional men’s ice hockey players in Canada. Canadian boys compete in age groups according to the year in which … Continue reading

South African cricket has lost a legend

  South African cricket is mourning the death of the cricketing legend Clive Rice. His career coincided almost to the day with South Africa’s isolation from international cricket. He was picked for the Australian tour of 1971/ 72 that was cancelled and captained South Africa on the first tour of India after isolation in 1992 at the age of 43. Rice only played in three One Day International matches for South Africa and belongs to a lost generation of South African cricketers because of politics. His career consisted of playing mainly domestic cricket for Transvaal and Nottinghamshire, which he both led with great success. Transvaal became known as the” Mean Machine” as they totally dominated South African provincial cricket by winning the Currie Cup, Nissan Shield and Benson & Hedges night series almost at will. In county cricket Rice lead Nottinghamshire to two county Championship titles after 52 years when … Continue reading

What’s happened to the bad boys?

England convincingly beat Australia by 169 in the first Ashes test match in Cardiff. Afterwards the Aussies declined England captain Alastair Cook’s invitation for a drink. At the time, one fleetingly wondered if the invitation would also have been forthcoming if England had lost the match. Nevertheless, it was generally portrayed in the media as a good gesture by the English team and as a sign of bad losers on the part of Australian captain Michael Clarke and his team. Most cricket followers’ first thoughts would have been that Australia missed an opportunity to set a good example and show sportsmanship in the harsh reality of professional sport. On second thoughts, I believe the men from Down Under were spot on. When the New Zealand rugby legend Tana Umaga was penalised by Australian referee Wayne Erickson for a dangerous tackle in a Super Rugby match he famously quipped: “It’s not … Continue reading

England victory sets up Ashes

England’s victory in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff has certainly raised the stakes in the current Ashes series. Before the first Test England were written off by many cricket critics and experts and given no chance. This included axed England batsman Kevin Pietersen who predicted a 5/0 whitewash of England. England showed at Cardiff that they have found exciting new players in fast bowler Mark Wood, all-rounder Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Jos Butler. Also, the performances of newer members of the team like Joe Roodt and Gary Balance are showing signs that they have taken to international cricket and belong there. There are probably two positions that England need to resolve long term. The first being if Adam Lyth, in spite of his century against New Zealand is the correct opening partner for Alistair Cook. Also, if Moeen Ali can be more than a holding spinner who supports the … Continue reading

We are bleeding cricketers

  The steady stream of South African cricketers seeking greener pastures continues unabated. On 30 June we were greeted with the news that the limited overs specialist, Roelof van der Merwe, has made himself available immediately to represent the Netherlands after receiving his Dutch passport.  This is nothing new; many South African cricketers hold dual citizenships.  The worrying aspect was that, according to media reports, the former Proteas player has decided to completely cut ties with South African cricket, leaving the Titans franchise after more than a decade, and that Van der Merwe “will now seek a team in England”. This follows in the wake of a similar decision taken in April by another former Proteas player, Jacques Rudolph.  Earlier this year another former Proteas player, Colin Ingram, signed for English county Glamorgan and became a Kolpak player, thereby for all practical purposes calling time on his international career.  Unlike … Continue reading

Bangladesh tour biggest challenge yet

  The Proteas play Bangladesh at home in all three formats of the international game during July starting with a T20 international on the Sunday the 5th of July. This tour, especially the ODI series, will be their most difficult assignment in Bangladesh yet. In recent times Bangladesh has shown that they are maturing into a force in international cricket. There is no doubt that they have gone past the once great West Indies as a cricketing nation. They enjoyed a very good 2015 Cricket World Cup (CWC) in Australia where they qualified for the quarter-finals.  Also, they recently easily beat Pakistan and India at home in ODI series. They have become a formidable team in ODI’s at home. The Proteas have rested some key players, like AB de Villiers for the Test series and Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander for the ODI series.   The ODI squad, especially, will be … Continue reading

Can cricket be “sledgeless”?

 On 4 January 2013 the New Zealand dressing-room at Newlands was a very sombre place.  The Proteas had just thrashed them inside three days by an innings and 27 runs.  It was, however, a turning point in the history of New Zealand cricket.  In the aftermath, captain Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson had a “never and never again” moment and agreed on a set of principles of how they want the team to play.  The rest of the Black Caps bought into their plan and the duo has since led New Zealand to lofty heights. A key principle of the McCullum / Hesson plan was that sledging would be totally taboo.  They will play hard, aggressive cricket but without resorting to any sort of verbal abuse of opposition players.  The approach has apparently served them well because it has taken New Zealand to a first ever World Cup final … Continue reading

South Africa cricket needs to finalise transformation

  South African cricket unified in 1992 when the then South African Cricket Board and South African Cricket Union amalgamated to form the United Cricket Board (UCB). In 1998 the UCB embarked on a transformation policy and it was agreed that each provincial team would have a quota of at least three players of “colour”. This programme worked well and resulted in many quality players of “colour” representing the Proteas and the eleven provincial teams. Seventeen years later the quota has been increased to six players of “colour” for each of the six franchise teams and with regard the national team, a very loose arrangement of four. Cricket South Africa (CSA) calls them targets but in fact they are quotas as they are legislated and any team failing to comply is fined. So the question is what is a transformed Proteas team and when will South African cricket be normalised? … Continue reading

Sport and Politics in South Africa: Then and Now

  On 27 May the soccer world was rocked by the corruption allegations and subsequent arrests of top FIFA officials following a major international investigation.  An FBI indictment inter alia alleged corruption in the selection of South Africa as the 2010 World Cup host.  One of those indicted, former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner of the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago, allegedly solicited US$10 million in bribes from the South African government to host the 2010 World Cup.  According to the indictment, Warner directed a number of co-conspirators to arrange the payment, which was eventually sent from a FIFA account in Switzerland to a Bank of America account in New York that Warner controlled. Ten days later the South African Football Association (SAFA) eventually responded to the allegations.  Its press release read:  “The Association is alarmed by the narrative that has developed around its strong support for the South … Continue reading

South African cricket needs a broader domestic base

  South African cricket needs a bigger professional competition if it is to remain competitive in world cricket. This was recognised by Andrew Hudson, the outgoing convenor of selectors, when he called for two additional franchises. Cricket South Africa (CSA) abandoned the eleven team provincial system after the 2003/04 season that had served South African cricket for over a hundred years. They replaced it with a six team franchise system along the lines of Australian domestic cricket. The reason was to close the perceived gap between the international and the professional game ensuring better equipped players for the national team. This decision never took into consideration the transformation policy of South African cricket and reduced the opportunities for black and white cricketers alike. It also did not take into account that it abandoned cricket brands that were over a hundred years old. CSA then tried to build new domestic brands … Continue reading