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

Cricket contracts under COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, force majeure as a legal term has suddenly entered our lives. A force majeure event is an unforeseen and superior event which is beyond the control of the contracting parties and prevents them from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.  The usual examples you will find in documents like insurance contracts are war, strike, riot, crime, plague or an event described by the term “act of God” (things like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and gale force winds).  The force majeure then excuses a party from performing his obligations in terms of the contract, but only for the duration of the force majeure.  It is commonly accepted that the lockdown in place in South Africa since 27 March can, depending on the parties’ contractual relationship, be construed as a force majeure.   So, can force majeure principles be applied to the professional contracts of cricketers in… Continue reading

Cricket must resume with high profile tournaments in 2020

The pressure is being felt in professional sport with the indefinite postponement and cancellations of certain tournaments to date. Add to this the possible further cancellation of future international events and tours with the possibility of no sport taking place for the rest of 2020. This places professional sporting codes in a very difficult financial situation, and even facing bankruptcy. With the sporting world on hold, the television broadcasters and sponsors will not be paying their rights and advertising fees resulting in no income for the respective sporting bodies. Cricket being a professional sport finds itself in this situation with the rest of the sporting world. The Pakistan Super League suspended at the semi-final stage needs to be completed and the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been postponed indefinitely. When and if cricket resumes in 2020, there are three tournaments that will need to take place as a priority as… Continue reading

A silver lining

Over the past six months, most of the cricket news coming out of South Africa has been doom and gloom.  Some of it has been the establishment’s own making (the end of the catastrophic Moroe-era, the series losses against the big three, India, England and Australia, and the dismal performance of the U.19 team at the World Cup come to mind) and some not, like the Covid-19 pandemic. But there is always something for which to be thankful.  For Cricket South Africa (CSA) it has been the appointment in December of the acting CEO, Jacques Faul, and director of cricket, Graeme Smith.  The ship isn’t out of danger yet, but it has been steadied. When Faul took over, the previous chief executive, Thabang Moroe, had dumped South African cricket into three huge mess-ups:  A nasty court case against the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), a commercial flop called the Mzansi… Continue reading

Will international and professional sport be resumed before 2021?

The recent cancellation of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, scheduled for the last week in June, raises the question if sport events and tournaments will be able to resume in 2020? The cancellation of Wimbledon is just another high profile event that joins the long list of sport events that have already been cancelled for 2020 and rescheduled for 2021, like the Olympic Games. The cricket world is still hopeful that the coronavirus will clear so that the T20 World Cup, the Indian Premier League, County cricket and other cricket can still take place this year. Rugby and football too are hoping the same so that their codes can complete competitions and scheduled sport can resume. Whether this is realistic or not only time will tell. There is no doubt that the sports industry is facing some serious challenges. Former Australian captain, Ian Chappell, wrote a column on Cricinfo stating that… Continue reading

Domestic restructuring taking shape

After earlier this month rescinding its decision to amalgamate the six franchises and thirteen provinces into twelve professional teams, Cricket South Africa (CSA) this week announced a new domestic playing structure for franchise and provincial cricket for the 2020/21 season.  In essence, the 2020/21 season will have the same number of teams but fewer matches. In a press release that accompanied the announcement, CSA said that there were five primary objectives with the restructuring.  Two of these objectives were the reduction of competition costs and providing “meaningful and commercially attractive content for franchises and provinces”.  It is unfortunate, however, that the lifting of the standards of domestic cricket was not one of these objectives. Cost-saving and other financial austerity measures were inevitable after the rampant squandering of CSA’s resources during the Moroe-era.  Something had to be done.  Curtailing first-class cricket will save costs, but whether it is the best thing… Continue reading

Will cricket survive the coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed the world is not only a threat to the human race and the world economy but to cricket as well. Most of the tournaments and tours have been either cancelled or suspended like the Indian Premier League (IPL), Pakistan Super League, England tour to Sri Lanka and all cricket in the southern hemisphere. The IPL start has been rescheduled to 18 April and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will probably delay the start of the County season till the middle of May. These are two very high profile cricket events. If they are cancelled or rescheduled, both cricket and the players around the world will be badly affected. If the IPL were to be cancelled, the Board of Control for Cricket India will lose about $750 million. Even they can’t afford this to happen. English cricket through international and county cricket are… Continue reading

Proteas ODI team on the right track

Who would’ve thought that from being 48 for 3 batting first in the first ODI against Australia, the Proteas would go on to complete a 3 – 0 series whitewash? It was a remarkable comeback from a side that has endured a tough time since September last year when they toured India.  Across all the three formats, the Australian series was their seventh of the 2019/20 season.  In the previous six, the Proteas were comprehensively outplayed by India (T20 and Test series), England (Test, ODI and T20 series) and Australia (T20 series). Sandwiched between the losses to India and England were all the off-field politics at Cricket South Africa (CSA) too.  This led to among other things the late announcement of the squad for the first Test against India and the dragging on of Graeme Smith’s appointment as Director of Cricket.  These issues certainly didn’t help the on-field performances. But… Continue reading

Is professional sport dying?

Is professional sport (or domestic sport as it was called during the amateur era) busy dying, especially in the southern hemisphere? When one sees the empty stadiums in all three major sports in South Africa, it certainly looks like it. Even football, that is a truly global game played in over two hundred countries, is under pressure crowd wise in South Africa. Except for the Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, and to a degree the Mamelodi Sundowns matches, crowd attendances are sparse. Rugby in the southern hemisphere is under pressure with Super Rugby losing support year on year. The stadiums are literally empty, with television viewership down in all three countries; the competition seems to be in free fall. Even international rugby in these three countries is under pressure, with only the All Blacks, England and British & Irish Lions being able to fill stadiums. Domestic cricket… Continue reading