I began my training for the Cape Town Cycle Tour yesterday morning. This column has been written the night before the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge just in case it all goes wrong and I end up a wreck, towed away by a wine farmer by a tractor and placed on a truck heading to hospital with the words “abnormal load” on the back and front.
Since completing the Coronation Double Century in November, I have ridden, in total, including fun rides, bangs along the Spruit through the spine of Joburg, roams out on the roads of the wild East Rand, jaunts to the cradle, taking away the two, adding one and rounding it off, zero kilometres. That’s none. The bikes in my garage have not moved an inch, save for the odd spin of the wheels on the MTB because someone once told me I need to keep the goo in the tubeless moving now and then to make sure it doesn’t harden into a brick.
The Afghanistan fans were, in the words of one commentator, making an “audible noise” yesterday. There’s nothing like a touch of audibility to give a noise job satisfaction.
The noise of Afghanistan’s victory over Scotland yesterday made a noise that will be heard around the world of cricket for some time to come. Or, at least until the next World Cup when Afghanistan will find it much more difficult to qualify because of another ICC change.
On November 10 last year, the ICC decided the number of the teams for the 2019 World Cup will be cut to 10 from the current 14. There will be one huge pool group, with the top four going through to the semfinals. The tournament will remain the same, excruciating length. It’s all about TV money, about having the best teams play the other, with 48 games over 47 days. The 2015 World Cup will see 49 matches over 44 days. It feels like a lifetime.
This will mean little room for Ireland, who have upset England and the West Indies in consecutive World Cups and even less for Afghanistan, a team I have tried to resist calling “brave”, as that implies they are here to make up numbers as no hopers. On yesterday’s showing, they are full of hope and pride. The sight of Shapoor Zadran running, screaming and then collapsing to his knees and then prostrate on the Dunedin turf after he scored the winning boundary was one of the great sights of this World Cup.
Andy Moles, the coach of Afghanistan, played and coached Griqualand West before moving on to Kenya and then Scotland, who he coached to victory in the ICC Trophy. Now he has helped the Afghans beat his former charges in the most dramatic way. His life in Kabul is a little different than it was in Kimberley, although some might say not.
“Sometimes you hear a boom go off somewhere when coaching in the middle,” he told The Cricket Monthly in January. “You see Black Hawk helicopters flying over the ground, going on missions and coming back. Like coaching in a war movie. Actually it is a very surreal situation because I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel scared when leaving for work in the morning.”
Sidharth Monga, who wrote the feature for The Cricket Monthly, noted: “Batting (in Afghanistan) is mostly about swinging as hard as possible. However, the bowlers are all fast. With clean actions.
They are all naturally strong. I wonder if, like the many small, unheard-of places in Pakistan, one of these towns will give cricket its next great fast bowler.”
We may never know. We may not get to see them in four years’ time, to witness how they have come on, this nation torn apart by war and politics, and barely sticking together. Cricket has given them some small joy.
They have made an audible noise and we have heard them.
Before the very first Cape Town Cycle Tour was held back in 1978, the organisers of the event went to the local department of sport and asked if they would consider getting involved. This was the Big Ride-In, a protest ride put on by the Pedal Power Association to draw attention to the need for cycle paths around the city and the peninsula.
The department of sport would love to be involved, came the answer, but only if they ensured that only whites rode in the race.
At the 2012 Absa Cape Epic, on a stupidly steep hill, with a jeep track a Jeep would have baulked at, with rocks the giants may have used to fight with, the couple of hundred people pushing their bikes up the hill heard a booming voice. “Rider passing.”
We looked back and then jumped left. The rider passing was Marius Hurter, former Springbok prop and 1995 World Cup winner, powering up the hill, spitting rocks from the rear wheel of his bike. He thundered on for about 200 metres, then was forced to stop when he lost traction and stepped off. We stopped and applauded.