Covid-19 Cricket: The South African story, so far

During World War II, Hollywood kept on releasing new movies and Pablo Picasso kept on painting in Paris.  Surreal, but that is how it was.  The same sense of surrealism permeates South African cricket when one considers the winners and losers during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018 Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced in parliament that it expects to make a loss of R654 million over a four-year cycle from May 2018 to April 2022.  But two weeks ago, CSA announced to parliament that it is expecting to record a profit of between R50 – 80 million for the 2019/20 financial year.  The sole reason for this?  The weak rand / dollar exchange rate in the Covid-19 economy.  Between 50 – 60% of CSA’s annual income is from international broadcasting rights paid in US dollars.  CSA is expecting a similar profit for the 2020/21 financial year, targeting a new projected loss… Continue reading

Cricket post Covid-19

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column on my reflection over the past 50 years that I have followed cricket, mainly in South Africa but also globally. This week I want to concentrate on the period after Covid-19. Personally, I am not a great believer that a new and totally different world will emerge after Covid-19. It is imaginary, as mankind and the planet will remain the same with the same issues. However, I have labelled it the post Covid-19 era because cricket, like other sport codes and industries, have faced major disruptions not seen since the Second World War. There are three major issues that cricket will have to address post the Covid-19 break if the game is to be sustained and grow in the future. The first major consideration is to control the supply and demand of the cricket product. It is no secret that the professional game… Continue reading

A fresh look at personal sponsorships

The Romans were amazing people.  2,000 years later, so many things around us directly or indirectly come from them:  Our modern government institutions, many engineering concepts (like domes and arches), our legal system and the English language, to name but a few. The Romans also gave us the concept of sponsorship.  Gladiatorial battles were the Romans’ sport.  it is the sole reason why today we can still see the Colosseum in Rome.  Big, brave gladiators were the Christiano Ronaldos and Michael Jordans in those days.  To help a gladiator prepare for battle, he would typically be taken into the care of a nobleman who would provide food and lodging, and all the necessary training facilities.  He became the gladiator’s sponsor. In return the gladiator fought in the name of the nobleman: “Spiculus, fighting for the glory of the family of the most noble Vinius Burpus.”  And yes, ultimately, the gladiator… Continue reading

Covid-19: A time to reflect

With Covid-19 putting the world on hold, including cricket, it is a time to reflect on the past and plan for a time after the virus. I have reflected on fifty years of South African cricket that I have watched and followed, starting with the series against Bill Lawry’s Australians in January 1970 in South Africa. South Africa (then the Springboks) easily won the Test series 4-0 to win only their second Test series against Australia in eighty years. This was a very strong South African team with three geniuses in Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards and Mike Procter. The team also had other greats like Eddie Barlow, Trevor Goddard and Peter Pollock. The one player that little is known about is Lee Irvine. He played in all four Tests, averaging 50.42 and scoring a Test hundred batting at number 5. This was his only series. In normal circumstances he would… Continue reading

To withdraw or not to withdraw…

After a hiatus since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, international cricket will hopefully return on 8 July when the Windies are set to start a three-match Test series in England.  The series is, however, still subject to the final approval of the British government.    But even if the tour is approved, it will not be “business as usual”.  Firstly, all the Windies players had to submit themselves to coronavirus testing in the Caribbean.  The results of these tests should be known by the weekend.  Only those who tested negative will be allowed to board the chartered flight on Monday. Secondly, the Windies selectors have named no fewer than 11 substitutes, who are due to fly with the team, just in case any of the official squad players contract the disease in England.  A total squad of 25 must certainly be one of the biggest in the history of… Continue reading

Has twenty-five years of professional rugby worked?

The month of May 2020 marks twenty-five years since the 1995 Rugby World Cup (RWC) took place in South Africa. It was also to be the last RWC played under the amateur dispensation and the beginning of the professional era. Also, it marked the end of long tours by the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies. It was the start of Super Rugby and the Tri Nations, later replaced by the Rugby Championship. The one tour that has survived the amateur era has been the British and Irish Lions; however, they have seen their match schedule reduced by 50%. The recent publishing of financial results has shown a loss of close to Aus$10 million for the Australian Rugby Union and a loss of NZ$10 million for the New Zealand Rugby Union. The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has forecasted a possible loss of R1 billion because of the coronavirus impact on… Continue reading

Sport in a time of lockdown

Today is Lockdown Day 57 in South Africa.  It is a long time, but other countries have been (or were) in lockdown mode even longer. We all know why it had to be done.  COVID-19 is serious, the most serious crisis the world has faced since World War II.  I know two people who have contracted the disease.  One of them, in the words of his physician, “almost joined the angels” but thankfully both are all right now. Initially the lockdown was a novelty.  Plenty of time for family bonding, reading more, sorting out personal admin, cleaning the house, etc. etc.  But as with all novelties, this one is also beginning to wear off.  The mood has turned more sombre over the past two to three weeks.  There is a monotony that does not distinguish one day from another.  Every day is just… Day. I believe that one of the… Continue reading

Ewie Cronje, a Free State icon

Nicolaas Everhardus Cronje was born on the eve of the Second World War on the 23 July 1939 in Bethulie in the southern Free State. He attended Grey College where he excelled academically and at sport. He played fullback for the U.19 Free State team (before the days of Craven Week) and tennis for Free State, including the Sugar Circuit tournaments. However, cricket was to prove Ewie’s real passion and the sport he loved the most. Cricket runs deep in the Cronje genes. Both father and sons, Frans and Hansie, played cricket for Free State, with Hansie becoming captain of South Africa.  Ewie was a Free State captain and between 1960 and 1972 played for Free State in 27 first-class and 3 limited overs matches. However, his real impact would be as a cricket administrator when he became President of the Orange Free State Cricket Union in the 1980’s. During… Continue reading

The English are at it again

I made a pleasant discovery during lockdown.  While flipping through YouTube channels one night, I came across a BBC quiz show, University Challenge.  Now I’m hooked.  University teams from across the UK compete in teams of four.  The teams often include international students, but the show’s character is quintessentially English.  When its legendary presenter, Jeremy Paxman, recently introduced a team that included an American, a Canadian and a Japanese he jokingly said they were no doubt hoping there will not be any questions on cricket.  Unfortunately for them, there were.  They couldn’t answer any of them and it cost them the match. As this University Challenge team proved, cricket is an English game.  There is a saying in the industry that “everything in cricket goes through London”.  Despite what the ICC and BCCI might think, England is still the cricket cradle.  It is where what we now call first-class cricket… Continue reading

What is the future of the eighteen counties?

With the start to the English 2020 cricket season now being postponed to 1 July at the earliest, it looks more and more likely that there might not be a ball bowled due to the coronavirus situation. This has once again raised the future and role of county cricket. There are eighteen counties affiliated to the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Historically they have played a major role in making England the architect and origin of the game of cricket as we know it today. However, there are many critics that believe that the number of counties should be reduced because the system is too costly and unwieldy in the modern game. They might have a valid point because counties emerged mainly in the amateur era when county cricket was bigger than international cricket. These roles have now been reversed, with international cricket being the main cricket product. For example,… Continue reading