So finally, it begins...and ends?
The much anticipated tour of England began today after many months of hype and excitement. It did so against the background of yet another boardroom squabble back home and an isolated but still significant attempt to undermine the acting CSA chief executive, Jacques Faul.
As expected, the Proteas’ arrival in England has been low key, utterly overshadowed by the build-up to the London Olympics, the irrelevant ODI series against Australia (which would have been ignored in the media if it had been the home team being thrashed rather than the tourists) and the passage of Andy Murray to the Wimbledon final.
Taunton is about as low key as small first-class cricket venues come in this part of the world, and nothing could be better or more appropriate. The players walk around the streets in the broad daylight of night time and nobody recognises them. Or if they do, they don’t care.
Walking on glaciers in Switzerland was a new experience for most of the squad, and there was much more besides to activate new feelings. But time spent with host Mike Horn was probably most valuable for his recollection of the time he spent below the radar, with nobody in the world even aware of his existence, let alone caring, as he walked on foot in constant darkness to the South Pole, life in danger during every hour.
A little ‘down time’ for the Proteas in the county of Somerset may seem far more grounded now.
The English media are convinced that the tourists will be under-prepared by the time the first test starts at the Oval on July 19. Perhaps that is because they still have a ‘traditional’ perception of what preparation is. Somerset have been most helpful in agreeing to a multi-player practice match and Gary Kirsten has quickly perfected the ‘art’ (he calls it an imperfect science) of maximising whatever time is available for preparation.
For Mark Boucher, however, it may all have ended after a mere 50 or so overs. Surgery tonight will reveal the extent of his eye injury. The deepest irony is that his potentially career-ending ailment is probably the first he cannot play through by biting the bullet and gritting his teeth.
He has played with broken toes and fingers before, strained muscles and ligaments and battered everything else. But you cannot battle on with damaged eyes, either as a ‘keeper or batsman. We wish him well in his speedy recovery.