South African cricket needs a new start

South African cricket needs a new start after a disastrous 2019 to date, having lost the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, the worst Cricket World Cup in history and now a loss to India without really competing. The signs of the demise of the Proteas have been evident for a while and now the national team has imploded. This will probably not be the end of the pain as they still need to play England and Australia later this summer. The solution to the problems is lifting the standard of domestic cricket as it is the feeder to the national team. Faf du Plessis in his post-match interview after the second Test in India alluded to the fact that the domestic system is not producing the quality and depth that is required to keep the Proteas competitive internationally. The implementation of the new provincial system from the 2020/21 season provides… Continue reading

Of points and pitches

The new World Test Championship (WTC) is now well under way.  The current Test match between South Africa in Pune (the second in a series of three) is already the eleventh in the first cycle of the WTC.  The WTC is one of the best things to have happened in Test cricket in a long time.  It gives Test cricket a context and meaning. Unfortunately the first ten matches of the WTC have also brought to light a glaring shortcoming – the points system. In the first cycle, each team will play six series.  Each series counts 120 points, with the points distributed equally over the number of matches in a series.  The points allocation is therefore as follows: 2 matches in series – Win/Tie/Draw – 60/30/20 3 matches in series – Win/Tie/Draw – 40/20/13 4 matches in series – Win/Tie/Draw – 30/15/10 5 matches in series – Win/Tie/Draw –… Continue reading

Does English and World Cricket need The Hundred?

The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced that they will be holding a draft for foreign players on 20 October for The Hundred, a 100-ball competition that debuts in 2020. There are eight franchise teams that are city based, and they are each allowed to draft and play three foreign players. This means that only 24 foreign players will be drafted for the tournament; these will be the top 24 players in the world. They have also announced the coaches for each franchise. All are high profile former cricketers and T20 coaches like Stephen Fleming (Nottinghamshire), Gary Kirsten (Cardiff) and Shane Warne (North London – Lord’s). The ECB are launching a new product with the best foreign players the world has and big name coaches with very little respect for cricket ethics. But does world and English cricket need this tournament? The ECB have just announced record attendances… Continue reading

Meet the Barmy Army

Like many other cricket fans, I’ve always viewed the Barmy Army as a group of beer guzzling lads that have to be tolerated every four years or so when the English cricket team visits our shores.  I was amazed to discover that there is a lot more to the Barmies than drinking. The Barmy Army was formed by three Englishmen, Paul Burnham, David Peacock and Gareth Evans, during the 1994/95 Ashes tour of Australia.  The trio went backpacking around Australia and attended every Test match of the series.  They supported their team loudly, singing songs and trying to keep up with the Aussies in the beer drinking stakes – in which they failed horribly, just like their compatriots on the field! By the time of the fourth Test in Adelaide, the trio had established quite a reputation and sizable following.  In previewing the Test match, a local newspaper referred to… Continue reading

ICC World Test Championship creates context

For years the International Cricket Council (ICC) said that Test cricket is their main product, but did nothing to market the oldest form of the game or give it context. However, they have now implemented the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) to give Test cricket a whole new dimension. The WTC started on 1 August 2019 in the first Test of the Ashes series at Edgbaston and will culminate at Lord’s in June 2021 when the two top teams on the log play the final. During this period Test teams will earn points from the Tests they play and there will be a WTC log. The ICC will hope that this initiative will be a new lease on life for all bilateral Test series. The health of Test cricket around the world varies from country to country and depends on the dynamics that drive cricket in each country. The recent… Continue reading

CSA have become power crazy

Last month Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced the creation of a new management structure for the Proteas with a lot of fanfare. In essence the two people in charge would be the cricket director (overseeing all national teams and ensuring everything is geared towards the Proteas performing at its optimal level) and the team director (the former head coach with a new title).  We were further told that the team director’s position was modelled on that of the team manager you find in the professional football leagues in Europe. A team manager in professional football a) assembles his own coaching team around him (i.e. people he personally trusts), b) ultimately makes all team decisions (as in the words of former American president Harry Truman “the buck stops here”) and c) accepts that he would be the fall-guy if the team does not perform satisfactorily. CSA would have us believe the… Continue reading

The Springboks and Proteas poles apart in 2019

Once again we find ourselves in a World Cup year in 2019 with regard to cricket and rugby. The 2019 Cricket World Cup is now history and England are the champions for the next four years. The Rugby World Cup (RWC) starts in Japan later this month and listening to the experts we can expect a closely contested World Cup. The Springboks are in Japan preparing for the RWC and are rated as one of the strong favourites to win the title. They secured the shortened 2019 Rugby Championship having won it for the first time in ten years. However, their success the last two years against the All Blacks has revived a great historical rivalry and restored the Springboks’ credibility. The Proteas on the other hand exited the CWC after the sixth match when they could no longer reach the play-off stages. They finished with victories against Sri Lanka… Continue reading

Could four-day Test cricket become a reality?

In December 2017 South Africa played the first ever four-day “Test” match against Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth.  In a column at the time I called it another example of the “insidious erosion” of the history, traditions and values of Test cricket.  Almost two years later, the facts seem to suggest that the erosion might be more natural than insidious. Here are the most recent facts: Since the beginning of 2018 until last week’s Sri Lanka / New Zealand clash, there have been 67 Tests. 40 of them finished within four days or sooner. In 2019 alone, 13 out of 19 Tests have finished within four days or less. That is 68.42%, the highest in the history of cricket for a calendar year in which a minimum of ten Tests have been played. The last three calendar years are among the top five in Test history in terms of matches finishing… Continue reading

International cricket coaches

The first country to appoint a national coach in the 1980’s was Australia when they appointed former Australian captain, Bobby Simpson, as their national coach. With Bobby Simpson as coach Australia won the Cricket World Cup for the first time in their history in 1987 in India. This created a precedent and every nation started appointing national coaches with varying success. Over the years it became like a football coaching merry-go-round, with coaches being fired left, right and centre. Like in other sports, the players are not held accountable for their performances. But coaches are even fired if they lose the so-called “dressing room”. The phrase is true that there are only two types of coaches, those that have been fired and those that are waiting to be fired. Former South African coach Russell Domingo has been appointed coach of Bangladesh. He is their seventh coach in eight years. South… Continue reading

Playing dice with players’ lives

On Wednesday night at 20h15 my phone rang.  It was one of our players who had recently been picked in the draft for the inaugural Euro T20 Slam.  It was to start on 30 August. His first words to me were:  “Francois, I have some disturbing news.”  As someone who has received a few late night calls I’d rather not receive again in my life, I didn’t like the sound of it.  He continued:  “I’ve just received the news that the Euro T20 has been cancelled.” My first thought:  Phew!  Luckily it’s only that and not something tragic.  But mulling over his words the last two days it slowly dawned on me why he called it  “disturbing”.  For years he has performed out of his skin at domestic level, but has never had a break to get into one of the lucrative overseas tournaments (despite registering for the auction or… Continue reading