As I wrote earlier, Neil Manthrop – a South African journalist – wrote a passionate article on the recent 4th Test which South Africa lost. As an English supporter, but a cricket-fan most of all, I was stunned; England won, and it was a genuinely memorable Test match, but I hadn’t anticipated such a fall out for South African Cricket.
Before this series, much was written about SA cricket being in decline. They had slipped dramatically from 2nd in the world (at one point they were significantly ahead of 3rd place, albeit some way behind Australia who were and still are 1st) to 6th. The racial quota policy – which I’m positive had been abolished in 2001(??) – continues; Mark Boucher, one of the best keeper-all-rounders in World Cricket in my opinion, has been forced to wait until the 4th Test to play (admittedly his form has been questioned, but he looked alright to me…). Despite all the above, the anger with which Neil writes is quite incredible:
“South African cricket may yesterday have suffered its most damaging blow since its isolation ended in June 1991.”
“His [Ray Jennings] aggressive methods, which caused the injury to his captain Graeme Smith during the warm-up on this Test’s fourth morning, are controversial to say the least”
“If Smith’s injury had been an unlucky accident Jennings could be forgiven, but this is the second time in two months that a player has been concussed courtesy of Jennings’ warm-up bat. In Kanpur six weeks ago the unlucky man was Dippenaar. It is one thing having a hard nut as a coach, quite another having simply a nut.”
The problem for South Africa is the number of problems. Not only is their form scratchy (God help them when Pollock retires), they have the wrong coach, clueless administrators and a ridiculous quote system of having a minimum of x coloured players in the side. Add onto that passionate and unforgiving SA supporters and suddenly the loss of this Test, and its consequences, become a little clearer. Apparently, and this is news to me, Gibbs counts as a coloured player…which will please their administrators more than anyone; that bloke can play alright.
As for this series, Vaughan will be quite pleased – not arrogant as another cricket blogger mentioned – although his bowling attack is in tatters. South Africa now cannot win this series – and they have a proud and wonderful home record. As Neil says: “The effects may last well after Michael Vaughan and his men have left these shores.”