AB’s retirement a blow for the Proteas

The unexpected retirement from all forms of international cricket by AB de Villiers has come as a surprise and shock to the cricketing world. There have been signs that AB’s retirement was imminent when he missed recent series but it was only expected after the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC). He always said that he wanted to win a World Cup for South Africa. He has been one of the great cricketers of a generation having played in 420 international matches for South Africa with 114 Tests, 228 ODI’s and 78 T20 Internationals. He scored 19,489 international runs with 47 centuries and 109 half centuries. He retires with a Test average of 50.66, an ODI average of 53.50 and a T20I average of 26.12. In a South African context he is one of the top five best batsmen the country has produced alongside Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Jacques Kallis and … Continue reading

Changes on the cards in England

More than 20 years after Lord MacLaurin’s drastic shake up, English county cricket appears to be set for another major overhaul. When Lord MacLaurin, at the time the chairman and CEO of one of Britain’s most successful supermarket chains, Tesco, was appointed chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in 1997 English domestic cricket was in a shambles and it showed in the performances of the national side.  By the time that he announced he would step down in 2002, the County Championship and the one-day league had been divided into two divisions, an effective central contracts system was in place for the international players and the ECB Academy had put in place the foundations of a competitive and successful national side.  As a result, Lord MacLaurin had overseen a rise in board income of almost £30million, with £7million a year being pumped into grassroots development. Now the … Continue reading

Ireland debuts in Test cricket

Ireland debuted in their first ever Test match in Dublin this past week. They lost to Pakistan by 5 wickets but Kevin O’Brien scored their maiden Test hundred in the second innings. Was it a great moment for cricket or will it prove to be another nation playing Test cricket that is not commercially sustainable, like Zimbabwe? Test cricket is the format that was the start of international cricket when England and Australia played the first ever Test match in 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground 141 years ago. It is very much a format that was born in the 19th century and is struggling to survive in the 21st century. Test cricket has come more and more under pressure from first the 50-over game and now the 20-over format. Also, the changing lifestyle has impacted negatively on a very long game. The only country where Test cricket remains in … Continue reading

Ireland makes its Test debut

11 May 2018 will forever be an historic day in the history of Irish cricket:  Ireland hosts its first ever Test match, against Pakistan, at Malahide Castle on the northern outskirts of Dublin. Ireland will become the first team to debut in Test cricket since Bangladesh in 2000.  The country was awarded full member status by the International Cricket Council last June, along with Afghanistan, and will become cricket’s 11th Test nation. It is rather apt for this momentous event that Ireland’s opponent should be Pakistan.  On St Patrick’s Day in 2007 Ireland recorded a legendary World Cup victory over Pakistan by three wickets at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica – an event that set in motion a process that will reach its climax on Friday.  Amazingly, four players will have been part of this journey from Sabina Park to Malahide:  the captain William Porterfield, fast bowler Boyd Rankin and … Continue reading

Is professional team sport dying?

The crowd attendances at the main three professional team sports – cricket, rugby and football – are a reason for concern, especially in the southern hemisphere. The lack of interest at the stadiums suggest that professional sport could be terminal or at best changing roles as a development process for international sport. The convenient explanation by administrators that it is the television audience that is important, holds no water. If the die-hard fans are no longer going to the stadiums, then the television audience has also declined as the one reflects the other. For years domestic cricket has been on the decline and, with the exception of the T20 game, the first-class and fifty-over games are developmental competitions to produce international cricketers. They have very little profile with the cricketing public and certainly have no commercial value. First-class and fifty-over cricket is a professional game in name only and needs … Continue reading

The 2019 Cricket World Cup

The International Cricket Council (ICC) this week confirmed the schedule of the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC), which will be staged in England and Wales from 30 May to 14 July. The 2019 CWC will be a replica of the 1992 edition in Australia, South Africa’s first ever CWC. It means that after dabbling with various tournament formats over six CWC’s from 1996 to 2015, the CWC will once again be a pure strength vs. strength competition.  The way it should be. The strength vs. strength concept was achieved in two ways. Firstly, in 2015, the ICC announced that only ten teams would qualify for the next CWC. They incurred the wrath of associate nations like Ireland (before it became a full member) and the Netherlands, but it was the right decision. No associate country had made any impact of any kind at the preceding six CWC’s. Their presence lowered … Continue reading

International cricket needs a new culture

  The Australian tour of South Africa has come and gone. Except for the result from a South African point of view, what a disappointment it was. The behaviour of the Australians relegated the tour to the gutters and certain South African players also contributed. All in all it was a disappointing tour and damaged the image of international cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) needs to clean up the game with regard to so-called “sledging” and ball tampering. It was good to see Cricket Australia come down hard on the two perpetrators, Steve Smith and David Warner, with hefty bans that hurt them not only in cricket terms but also financially. They were not allowed to participate in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and this has literally cost them millions of US dollars. This should have happened to Dwayne Bravo when as captain he led the abandonment of the … Continue reading

County cricket still the ultimate in first-class cricket

In January 2016, the day after Ben Stokes had smashed the Proteas to all parts of Newlands on his way to a scintillating 258 off only 198 balls, an English expat friend invited to me to a dinner function at Kelvin Grove.  We shared a table with eight English cricket tourists. After dinner the Englishmen started to ask me about the state of first-class cricket in South Africa.  The Cobras were due to start a Sunfoil Series game at Newlands a few days after the completion of the Test match.  The group was still going to spend some time in Cape Town after the Test match, so they wanted to know if I can get tickets for them for the Cobras’ game.  They were absolutely gobsmacked when I told them there’s no need to buy tickets; you just walk into the ground.  I spent the next hour convincing them that … Continue reading

Zimbabwe Cricket future under threat

Not qualifying for the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC) in England has been a big blow for cricket in Zimbabwe, both commercially and for international cricket reasons. Zimbabwe lost to the UAE, a team they should have beaten, by three runs in the Super Six stage of the CWC Qualifiers and failed to secure a place in the final. With the two finalists, the West Indies and Afghanistan, qualifying for the 2019 CWC, it meant that Zimbabwe in fact crashed out of the 2019 CWC. These three runs will prove to be very costly as Zimbabwe will lose out on millions of dollars paid to the teams that participate in the 2019 CWC. This is a situation they cannot afford because of their massive debt levels, owing the banks $20 million and also having an International Cricket Council loan of $3,6 million. Qualifying for the 2019 CWC was crucial to … Continue reading

The punishment should fit the crime

Ball-tampering is a serious issue in cricket.  After match-fixing it is the sport’s biggest curse.  The plan that Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft concocted last Saturday at Newlands in the third Test against South Africa to alter the condition of the ball should therefore be condemned in the strongest possible terms. It is cheating and must be punished. In 2013 South African captain Faf du Plessis was at the centre of a ball-tampering scandal in a Test match against Pakistan.  (At the time Du Plessis was not the captain.)  He was caught rubbing the ball on a zipper on his trousers.  Du Plessis admitted guilt.  The match referee awarded Pakistan five penalty runs and fined Du Plessis 50% of his match fee, but there was no suspension. At Newlands Bancroft was caught rubbing the ball on a piece of sandpaper; he was doing so with the blessing of … Continue reading