Johannesburg – Given the anger, anxiety and bewilderment of the last few weeks, seeing cricketers just looking excited again brought a smile to my face.
This is a difficult time for South African cricket. It was not supposed to be so. An administrative reconstruction which placed Cricket South Africa more in line with sound business practices, was supposed to be a catalyst for a new period of honesty, openness and thus growth and opportunity for that organisation.
Instead, CSA has become mired in a mess – partly of its own making – around the schedule of India’s tour to this country and the dire consequences of a curtailed series or even one that could be cancelled.
Monday night saw the Highveld Lions host their farewell function ahead of the team’s departure for the Champions League T20 tournament that starts officially on Saturday.
The Lions and the Titans are South Africa’s two representatives in a competition where the first prize is a staggering $2.5-million.
It was the looks on the faces of players like Aaron Phangiso, Rassie van der Dussen and Hardus Viljoen that really struck me. We’ve become a little blasé in this country about tours simply because, having been back in international sport for 20 years, teams and players are up and on a plane everyday heading somewhere. India may be less of a mystery compared to 1991, but for Viljoen and Van der Dussen, this tour will represent their first look and feel of India. “Is it true you’re not allowed to drink beer in Ahmedabad,” Viljoen asked me? “Err, yes,” I told him, “it’s a ‘dry state’.”
“Jis, some of these okes are going to battle hey,” he said pointing at teammates. Indeed.
“What about shopping? I hear Jaipur’s good for that,” came another enquiry.
The excitement was palpable. And thankfully it took minds off all the recent troubles CSA is going through.
For Van der Dussen, Viljoen and even a veteran like Neil McKenzie, who has seen it all in cricket, this will be a grand adventure. New sights, sounds, smells, with some important cricket in between.
There’s too much politicking in sport, and the current fall out between the BCCI and CSA, is another example of that. But seeing those Lions players on Monday also served as a reminder as to why those administrators have jobs. It’s about the players and the fans; sport can bring such joy not only to those watching but the participants too.
Of course I’d like it if the Lions could win the whole thing but I’ve already enjoyed the fact, that just stepping onto a plane and heading off to a land far away, can still be a thrill.