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Pardon me, but I’m not going to share in the self-righteous indignation that overcame many in social media circles this week following Cricket South Africa’s announcement that there would be no Boxing Day Test Match this season.
Yes, I understand that is a time of year when many are on holiday and like to park off at the braai with a few beers and watch the cricket. In Durban itself, after day one, they’re not going to Kingsmead anymore, apparently the beaches are a greater attraction.
Cricket SA’s decision is a pragmatic one given a variety of circumstances. One of those is that New Zealand is not a big drawcard, just like Sri Lanka weren’t last season (the big three, Australia, England, India are the major money-spinners in international cricket). In order to maximise revenue from a tour that isn’t particularly attractive – and was always scheduled to have only two Tests – CSA have taken a step that is drastic, yes, but will at least leave them with cash at the end.
Frankly, for all the talk about tradition, Durbanites and the many visitors to the city over that period never supported “tradition” after day one of the Test. Sure there are TV viewers, but even for television, showing a match where only a few thousand are attending doesn’t make for a great atmosphere and it hurts coverage too.
It’s important to note that this is a decision for the coming season only. India are scheduled to tour SA in 2013/14 and I expect to see the Boxing Day Test restored – just NOT in Durban.
Cricket SA tried an experiment in 2007 where they took the Boxing Day Test to Port Elizabeth. The West Indies played and won but, like in Durban, the crowds dropped drastically after the first day. I think it may be time to give Centurion a chance with that Test match.
Forget the myth about Gauteng emptying out after December 16 as everyone heads to the coast. There are still loads of people here at that time of the year and SuperSport Park is a most fan-friendly venue. In recent seasons the Test match played there has drawn big crowds and of course South Africa have a good record there.
It would be worth all the angry social media folk taking a deep breath and realising that cricket still needs to be financially viable and that CSA has a duty to ensure that it is.
Test cricket remains the premier form of the sport and in making this Boxing Day decision CSA have correctly struck the balance between those two imperatives. – The Star