Typical. On the day the Dale Benkenstein announces he has decided to retire from all forms of cricket, bringing to an end a wonderful career by one of the quieter men in the sport, Kevin Pietersen brings out his book on cheese and the world forgets about the other South African in England.
Benkenstein has never been the loudest player. Quietly but strongly spoken, he was once being discussed as a possible future captain of South Africa. He may even have been in the same squad as Pietersen at so-me stage at Kingsmead, before the latter left for England furious at South African cricket. This week, in the maelstrom around the bullying, soul-sear-ching, soul-sucking big cheeses who have been outed in Pietersen’s new book, one small line almost went unnoticed.
The small, temporary hut at Carisbrook that housed the media shook during before the All Blacks played the Springboks on a cold August night in 2005. The “scarfies”, the students of Otago University, who were next to the media hut, were well fuelled and rocking. Then there was a confused hush. Tana Umaga was leading the haka and taking his time about it, but this was not Ka Mate.
As Umaga began the haka, a New Zealand Rugby Union media liaison ran around the hut, handing out releases. This was Kapa o Pango, the new haka that had been a year in the making. Umaga looked fit to rip his jersey apart. The Springboks looked on a little bemused. Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana, the latter scoring in his first Test against the All Blacks, were in that Bok team, as were Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger. Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu were the only survivors of that 2005 team to play on Saturday.
In “Mitch – The Real Story”, John Mitchell, who has been linked with the Sharks as the replacement for Jake White, says that he would never coach another team that was at its weakest with a dysfunctional administration. His two last teams, the Force and the Lions, were such.
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.