The Roman poet, Virgil, is credited with coining the phrase “love conquers all”. More than two thousand years later I discovered that “the love for cricket conquers all”.
Earlier this year Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced that domestic cricket in the country would be restructured. An unavoidable consequence of the process would be that a certain number of players would lose their professional contracts. In effect, the system would fire them.
Nobody knew exactly how many players would be without a contract come the end of April. The cricketers’ voice, the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), estimated this number would be around 75. They consulted the players about the matter, and every player knew what his fate could be. In the end, the number was 92.
We represent 21 of the unfortunate 92. These players are all still under contract with us. My partners and I are therefore duty-bound to help them out of their predicaments. But how? What do you tell them? What hope can you offer them? During June we started this not-too-pleasant task.
The reaction of the players to this terrible blow to their cricket aspirations has astounded me. Sure, there was a lot of disappointment, sadness, despondency and even anger. Bewilderment at some of the provinces’ decisions has also been a common theme. But in all this, no player has expressed an iota of bitterness.
I am no psychologist, but in my mind you can be disappointed in, sad with or angry at someone of something you love. But you cannot love when you are bitter. Despite having ample reasons to fall out of love with cricket, none of the 21 has.
Only one of the 21 has started a new job – as a cricket coach! None of the rest has (yet) given up hope on his cricket career. A cynic might say they are naïve. I think it is an act of love.
And in this love there lies the tragic irony of South African cricket. No matter how much abuse the players cop from the powers-that-be, they still love cricket. Sometimes I think CSA know this to be so and play it as their trump card: It does not matter how much we bully the players and disregard them, we know they are all love fools.
If you are one of the 21, you will know when you read this article. This is my salute to you: You are every bit as much a cricket hero as anyone of the Proteas playing against the West Indies today. You are the bedrock of cricket in South Africa. May your love for the game, as mine, never be quenched!
It has become a cliché, but still, no one says it better than the 1970’s British rock band, 10CC, in their iconic song “Dreadlock Holiday”:
I don’t like cricket (Oh no!)
I love it
I don’t like cricket (No no!)
I love it