The joy of cricket

We should not allow the elephant in the room to suck the joy out of cricket

For the second time in a row I found myself at a complete loss what to write about in my fortnightly column.  The equivalent of a sort of writer’s block.

There has been no shortage of events in South African cricket to write about – all of it off the field.  Not writing about things such as the political interference, the boardroom shenanigans or the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement would be like avoiding the elephant in the room.  These issues (and many more) are crucial to the future of the game in our country and I hold strong views on them.  Yet, I somehow could not find it in me to also add my opinion to the public debate.  Why not?

Cricket is the most beautiful game I know.  I have been in love with it since the day I first played it on the beach in the Strand with my father and brother.  And the love affair has now lasted more than fifty years!  In September it would be fourteen years since Arthur and I started One World of Sport.  There has not been a day I have not had to pinch myself to realise how lucky I am to be working in the sport I love.

Of course, as with any job, there are numerous bad days at the office.  There are many serious issues to be addressed on a daily basis; in our line of business, especially when a player’s career is at stake.  Yet, through it all cricket still gives joy to me and millions of other people around the world.  I guess you could say that ultimately we are in the business of giving joy.

Cricket, therefore, should not be about spreading hatred, animosity and division.  It should not be the battleground for petty politics and people with egos bigger than the game itself.  It should not make us feel miserable and despondent.  It should not be that when you talk to your friends your first impulse is to moan and whine about the state of the game in the country.

We in the business of cricket owe it to our players, their parents and the thousands of other cricketers to make this game joyful.  We owe it to players like Vernon Philander that their stories be told to bring joy and hope to thousands of others.

The focus of cricket should always be how the love for and enjoyment of the game are to be maintained.  In South Africa, right now, that focus should be on how the coming season could be structured in the wake of COVID-19 and the restructuring of the domestic game.  In the long term it should be about how the Proteas, men and women, could be the best in the world.  Sadly, it is not.  

I am a realist and can clearly see the elephant in the room.  I can also see that this elephant is sucking all the joy out of cricket in this country.  To write about this sucking, parasitic elephant would only take away from me the joy of cricket.  I am not going to allow that to happen.

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