Time again for county cricket

Yesterday the 2021 County Championship kicked off in England.  The competition was first contested in 1864, when Surrey was crowned champions.  Officially known as the Championship since 1980, the competition has seen many formats over its storied history. In 2000, the England & Wales County Board (ECB) adopted a two-divisional format for the eighteen counties contesting the Championship.  There were a few tweaks made to the structure in 2016, but it basically stayed the same until last season.  An important feature was the automatic promotion / relegation – the two bottom teams in Division One went down, and the two top teams in Division Two up. 2021 sees the first major restructuring of the Championship format since 2000.  Because of the Covid pandemic, the Championship proper was not staged in 2020.  Instead, the counties played in a revised three-group structure for the Bob Willis Trophy.  Earlier this year the eighteen… Continue reading

Pakistan first test for Temba Bavuma

Pakistan has arrived in South Africa for two limited overs series against a Proteas team under new leadership in Temba Bavuma. There are three One Day Internationals and four T20 Internationals, all to be played on the Highveld at SuperSport Park and the Wanderers. Once again, no spectators will be allowed into the stadiums because of Covid. There is a lot of hype around the Proteas under a new leader and a new era dawning, similar to England after the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia where they imploded. There is no doubt that England since the 2015 CWC have built a formidable white-ball team in both ODIs and T20Is. Since that CWC they have been the dominant white-ball team in the world and won the 2019 CWC. In fact, England is probably the best white-ball team in the history of ODI and T20I cricket. The England team is loaded… Continue reading

Protea women giving some hope

Amid the current boardroom shenanigans at Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the abysmal performances on the men’s team, the recent series victories of the Protea women in India have lifted some of the gloom that has descended on South African cricket. Moreover, they have put women’s cricket firmly on the map in South Africa; their rightful place is now given.  They have done more to promote cricket in the country – among all, not only women – than any male cricketer or administrator has done over the past two years.  The Proteas are a force to be reckoned with in international cricket and players like Lizelle Lee, Shabnim Ismail and Laura Wolvaardt are true international stars. We all know that South African teams, of whatever description, have historically struggled on the sub-continent.  That makes the Proteas’ series victories of 4 – 1 in the ODIs and 2 – 1 in… Continue reading

Provincial cricket returns to South Africa

Cricket South Africa (CSA) recently announced that from the 2021/22 season, 15 provinces will play professional domestic cricket. The new provincial structure replaces the six-team franchise and thirteen-team provincial system that served domestic cricket from 2004. CSA must be congratulated on returning to the provincial structure because franchise cricket was the worst decision made for domestic cricket in South Africa. The franchise system was modelled on the Australian Sheffield Shield of six state teams which has served Australian cricket well for decades. This strong system ensured that Australian cricket was a dominant force in world cricket over the last century when there were only Test and One Day International cricket. With the evolution of three three formats of international cricket and the global events, this system has proved inadequate to produce sufficient players to maintain Australia’s dominance in world cricket. The mistake that CSA made was to model South Africa’s… Continue reading

Match-fixing: The case of Shakib al Hasan

Shakib al Hasan was one of the star players at the 2019 World Cup in England.  He was included in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) team of the tournament, the first Bangladeshi to be honoured in this way.  By the end of the tournament, he had amassed over 11,000 runs and was approaching 600 wickets in international cricket. Three months later, on 29 October, his world came crashing down.  Al Hasan admitted guilt to three breaches of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Code and was banned from the game for two years.  The sentence was suspended for twelve months, and Al Hasan returned to international cricket in January this year. Al Hasan’s case is a useful reminder that cricketers could be in breach of the Code even if they do not act upon a request to engage in corrupt conduct. From January to April 2018, Al Hasan on three separate occasions exchanged… Continue reading

New era begins for Proteas

A new era is dawning for South African cricket with the appointment of new leadership for the Proteas. Cricket South Africa (CSA) will be hoping that these leadership appointments will start the much-needed rejuvenation of the Proteas in international cricket. The Proteas now have two captains for the three formats, with Dean Elgar captain of the Test team and Temba Bavuma captain of the ODI and T20 teams. It has been a good decision to remove Quinton de Kock as captain of the Proteas in all formats. He is too valuable to South Africa as a player and he is not a natural leader. Also, history shows that the workload of a wicketkeeper/ batsman as captain does not work; Alec Stewart is a good example of this. Elgar does not have much experience as captain because he has not been a regular franchise captain in his career. His only experience… Continue reading

The Englishman’s game?

In a recent conversation with an Afrikaans-speaking father of a talented young cricketer, he made the following remark (in Afrikaans, of course): “I’m actually a rugby man, but my son plays the Englishman’s game.” It got me wondering whether this was still the prevailing perception among Afrikaners, that cricket is “the Englishman’s game”.  More so because there is a view that, if anybody, the Afrikaners have excelled most in cricket since South Africa’s international readmission in 1992.  To understand this perception, one must go all the way back to the late 19th century.  Between the time of the first ever Test match in 1877 and the formation of the Imperial Cricket Conference in July 1909, the only countries to play international cricket were England, Australia and South Africa.  In those years, the ties between England and Australia were strong, but not so between England and South Africa. Two Anglo-Boer Wars… Continue reading

South African cricket controlled by the government

The Minster of Sport, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, has extended the mandate of Cricket South Africa’s Interim Board by two months to 15 April 2021. In real terms this means that cricket is not run by a board democratically elected by its affiliates and associates, but by the government. Cricket in South Africa remains controlled by the government. This is against the constitution of the International Cricket Council and can lead to CSA’s expulsion. CSA remains an organisation that is paralysed, and the crisis deepens every day as the game slips more and more into the mire. The cancellation of the Australian tour will cost them in the vicinity of R40 million in lost television revenue. CSA have now asked the ICC to intervene, presumably for loss of revenue. However, it is difficult to see the ICC doing this as many international tours have either been postponed or cancelled due to… Continue reading

Less is more

Last Sunday the American football season reached its peak with Super Bowl LV.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the 55th edition of the annual spectacle, their second triumph after 2003.  The Bucs gave the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, a 31 – 9 hiding. The rules of American football are simple.  For an outsider, the difficulties lie in looking past the irritating American razzmatazz and endless commercials, as well as sitting through a game for about three hours with only 15 minutes of action.  And yet, somehow, I get caught up in this irresistible showpiece year after year. Over a period of about five months from mid-September until the first weekend in February, every season builds up to a climactic finale.  Then it is over.  Nothing for the next seven months. The kingpin of American football is the quarterback.  If you think a rugby flyhalf controls a game, then… Continue reading

Second shock wave for South African cricket

The cancellation of the Australian tour of South Africa in March is the second shock wave that Cricket South Africa (CSA) has had to absorb, after England cancelled the One Day International Series in November 2020 because of Covid scares. The cancellation of these two high profile tours will hurt CSA financially, as they will lose millions of rand in television rights and sponsorship income. It certainly is proving to be a challenging year for CSA both on and off the field. The question must be asked, have these two countries the right to cancel these tours because of Covid concerns? The answer must be NO, as CSA successfully hosted Sri Lanka, the Pakistan Women’s Series and the T20 Series against England. Of course, Covid must be taken seriously but not used as an excuse by player power; that is obvious in both those camps. Let us not forget that… Continue reading