Apologies for a very sudden end to the Diary a couple of days ago. The least I could do is assure readers that it had nothing to do with being hunted down down by feral 10-year-old children and locked up in a deserted squat.
Nor was it anything to do with being detained by British Immigration authorities for being an illegal immigrant. Many thanks to the many readers who showed such concern at my ‘lost passport’ crisis and even the offers of help (the drive through Africa in a concealed lorry compartment was a bit dramatic) but I’m thrilled to report that a replacement was, eventually, forthcoming. Legally.
And it works, too, as I am updating this entry from the comfort of my study in Cape Town having bid farewell to the tour at the conclusion of the ODI series which ended in such emphatic style in Nottingham on Wednesday. Some desperately needed ‘home time’ will now be taken in very large doses before heading off again to the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka next week.
There was a concern that the tour party in England was beginning to look a little too weary than we would have liked by the beginning of this week but the victory at Trent Bridge – and the inspiration of Amla and De Villiers – clearly gave everyone a massive and timely lift.
The participation of Johan Botha in the England T20s and the ICC T20 in Sri Lanka later in the month has raised more eyebrows than I believe is fair. He may be set to emigrate to Adelaide immediately afterwards but, frankly, so what? He is still SA’s best 20-over spinner and one of the best in the world.
He has been a loyal servant to the Proteas for many years and has been inscrutably honest and transparent in his dealings and negotiations with South Australia and CSA. His contract with South Australia, incidentally, will almost certainly yield less financial reward than an ongoing CSA contract. His reasons for leaving – family and an exciting new challenge – are impeccable and genuine. His uninformed critics should be celebrating his talent and availability, not worrying about his ‘loyalty’ – which has been beyond reproach.
Among many interesting ‘sidebars’ in international cricket at the moment is the non-inclusion of Saeed Ajmal in the ICC’s Annual Awards list for ‘Test Cricketer of the Year’. His national board are threatening to boycott the ceremony in protest. The Pakistani ‘mystery spinner’ took a remarkable 72 test wickets between August 4, 2011 and August 6, 2012 – the qualifying period for the award – including an even more remarkable 24 at an average of 14.7 in a clean sweep against the then-No 1 ranked team, England.
The achievements of Michael Clarke, Kumar Sangakkara, Vernon Philander and Hashim Amla are impossible to argue against, but for once the hyper-sensitive Pakistan lobby have a bloody good point. Ajmal’s exclusion is absurd. The ICC, however, can justifiably point to an adjudication system that is questionless in its independence.
When Gary Kirsten took over as national coach he was fully aware of the fact that the majority of South African supporters would judge him by one thing alone – his ability to land trophies enscribed with “World” on them. There has only ever been one, in 1998 – the inaugural Champions Trophy. See – you can’t even remember it! But everyone remembers all the failures, all the blow-outs, meltdowns and brain warps.
If you think it’s hard for you, why not imagine how hard this group of players are trying to put it right. And how hard they might be feeling.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
Only the most brave-hearted, optimistic and enthusiastic supporters on the road could claim that South Africa’s tour is not suffering at the back-end of two months on the road. Much was made, understandably, of the potential impact the ‘new faces’ would make during the ODI section of the tour – and even more for the T20 section at the end – but the reality is different.
New passengers on a train running out of fuel do not provide impetus to the engine. It is what it is…running on low. Not quite empty, but the red light is flashing. Gary Kirsten has had the luxury of his wife, Deborah, and their three children visiting for a couple of trips during the tour but hotel life is never easy for anyone, never mind with three kids under the age of 10.
Talking of kids, the English youth ‘culture’ caught up with me in a big way this evening on the Underground. Living nearby to a circular line offers the perfect opportunity for delinquent parents to offer their considerably more delinquent children the opportunity to go and ‘play’ somewhere ‘safe’. And return after however many loops they fancy doing before turning in for the night.
Five children terrorised an entire carriage for 20 minutes, screaming and brandishing home-made weapons in a manner that would have been difficult to make believable in a movie. None were older than 10. Riotous, abusive with filthy language, physically aggressive to the point when an elderly lady began to sob.
Unable to carry on ignoring the situation, I confronted the children – and had a sharpened piece of metal thrust at me. I was easily able to disarm the child at which point I was told, with numerous expletives, that he would have me arrested at the next stop for “molestation of a minor”. He knew the terms. He knew the law. “I’ll have you f***ing locked away, you ****.” Ten years old. Lovely. The lady blubbered “don’t do it, it’s not worth it. Just leave them.” So I sat for another 15 minutes until my stop wondering how they would get on in South Africa. As I prepared to exit at my station, he came again: “You chicken-sh*t loser, you ain’t got the balls! F*** you!” Nice. From a ten-year-old.
Former England captain, Michael Vaughan, is also feeling the ‘tone’ of the ODI series. “We must always play the ODIs before the test series. It was an epic test series and there’s always bound to be an ‘end-of-term feeling’ to the one-day series,” Vaughan said.
So: Just one more, major, gut-wrenching push to level the ODI series and all will be well. Oh, and then there’s the T20 series…