In 1996, when I had been at The Star just over a year, I edited a column written by the late, great Peter Robinson, a dispatch from Pakistan during the 1996 Cricket World Cup. It had been an awful tour for the South Africans.
The sub-continent can be a hard place to work, and when they make it difficult to find a drink, it can be nigh on unbearable.
South Africa had been knocked out of the tournament, and Robbo wanted to come home. He’d had a tough time of it. He had had to ghost-write a column for a South African cricket player who lacked both communication skills and memory.
A Newsweek piece printed yesterday (yes, they have gone back into print, although I must confess I read it online), lamented that “Yuppies are killing the Dive Bar”.
“This story reminds me,” said Stuart Hess, the cricket writer at The Star, “of La Diplomat in Dhaka.”
La Diplomat would have been a dive bar in any city in the world, but in a pre-dominantly Muslim city where finding a drink was no easy matter, it became our little home from home during the week or so we spent in Dhaka during the Cricket World Cup in 2011.
On his way out of the country on Saturday night, Daryl Impey bumped into the Springbok team. The two were heading in opposite directions: Impey was flying west to Canada to race, while the Springboks were going east for the Down Under leg of the Rugby Championship.
Impey spoke to Victor Matfield, a keen mountain biker who has considered doing the Absa Cape Epic. On Friday, Matfield greeted Impey’s official statement that he had been cleared of doping charges with a simple: “Great news.” Late on Saturday, he tweeted Impey: “Can’t wait to start following and supporting you again.”
The Google translation of Namibian cyclist Dan Craven’s biography on the Team Europcar site reads thus: Dan Craven. “This is a Namibian cyclist atypical personality and look unkempt. His arrival continues the philosophy of the team: popularize international cycling and provide opportunities for good cyclist from countries that open gradually to the sport.”
That is Dan Craven down pat. Atypical, unkempt and a man who has seen his career burst open with opportunity at a time when, at 31, he may have thought it was all over. Craven was given a contract with Europcar, a World Tour team, and immediately, before he had time to stroke his beard in unkempt, atypical wonder, was thrust into his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana. And there he was, riding on the front along with MTN Qhubeka to try to bridge the split in the bunch in the fifth stage of the Vuelta on Wednesday.
Somewhere, in a drawer or on a hanger, I have a T-shirt that bears the autograph of the hardest man in the hardest professional sport. Jens Voigt put his scrawl on a T-shirt that bears the legend Cervelo, the name of the Canadian bike manufacturers who sponsored Team CSC at the time.