Johannesburg – The first Test match I went to watch live was at Newlands in January 1993 when South Africa faced India.
My younger brother and I sat in the old Willows section, adjacent to the railway line. As that stadium has developed, the ‘Willows’ has disappeared, but it was probably the liveliest part of Newlands, with patrons ready to dispense all kinds of “advice” to those fielding nearby.
My recollection of our day there is vague – I know there was a bit of ice-cream involved, a boerewors roll and Fanta.
The game itself wasn’t particularly enthralling. South Africa had won the previous Test in Port Elizabeth, were 1-0 up and the Newlands match being the final one of the four-Test series (Four Tests, wow! How’d they manage that?), Kepler Wessels, South Africa’s captain, was not going to give the Indians a sniff.
My brother recalls Meyrick Pringle cracking a joke with him during one of the drinks breaks and he also got his match programme signed by Anil Kumble, a player neither of us knew much about (he was only playing in his sixth Test in that match) but who my brother described as a “really nice bra,” and one we would watch closely over the years. As Kumble’s career turned into a great one my brother would often run to the cupboard at home and haul out that programme, proudly showing off Kumble’s autograph.
I’ve been fortunate over the years, to attend the New Year’s Test both in a working capacity and as a spectator.
You bump into old chums, share a beer or three, discuss politics, your own ropey attempts at some social cricket game, Arsenal, food and Jacques Kallis’ cover drive. And in recent years of course you visit the “sausage lady’ in her little yellow van situated under the pavilion at the Kelvin Grove End. ‘Bratwurst or Frankfurter?’ ‘Mustard or Tomato Sauce?’
This summer there’ll be no New Year’s Test, no socialising over a beer, no bratwurst, no rubbish talk about politics or football, and I am very angry about that.
The rumours had been doing the rounds for months, but you felt that even in the event of the Indian tour be cut, that such an iconic event on the South African sporting calendar would be saved.
But it hasn’t and I and many others are furious about that.
Angry at Cricket South Africa, the BCCI, the ICC, sports administrators in general.
When the men in suits can’t do their basic jobs properly – ensure the sport they’re responsible for takes place – we should all be angry.
How do we trust those people in future?