Why NZ for Newlands New Year Test?

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iol spt dec12 Newlands cricket stadium Gallo Images Cricket writer Zaahier Adams laments the fact that the Proteas will be facing the not so mighty New Zealand at Newlands over New Year. Photo by Grant Pitcher

“It is fundamental at any level of sport to respect the opposition, regardless of the team they put in the field,” acting Cricket South Africa chief executive Jacques Faul stated yesterday.

He continued: “In the first place, it is none of our business to comment on New Zealand domestic matters, and secondly, I have at no stage criticised their selection or expressed disappointment in comments to the media in either South Africa or New Zealand.”

Faul went even further: “We saw through the performances of Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers in the One-Day Cup eliminator at the weekend the level to which the Proteas are playing, and I have absolutely no doubt that our fans will, as usual, turn out in huge numbers to support them.

“We look forward to welcoming the Black Caps here later this week, and we are well aware of their ability to perform on the international stage. No South African player or fan needs reminding of what happened in our quarter-final at the last ICC World Cup.”

Faul is an honourable man trying his level best to restore CSA’s credibility with the public after all the scandals the organisation has endured over the last two very draining years.

However, even Faul gets it wrong here because he is simply coming across as a very worried man.

An incoming New Zealand tour over the usually bumper festive period is not something to get the heart racing, and even more importantly, the public to the ticket outlets.

The New Zealand Black Caps are not their All Black rugby counterparts. They simply have no following here in South Africa, and not enough class to excite even the most avid of cricket fans.

The fact that they have now been embroiled in one public crisis after the other, leading to their most valued player, Ross Taylor, losing the captaincy that has led to his withdrawal from the South African tour has lowered their stocks even more. That’s not even taking into account their most experienced international, Daniel Vettori, will also not tour due to injury.

South Africans have been spoilt over the recent past. Powerhouses such as India, England and Australia have visited our shores recently. With them, they brought great players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, Alistair Cook, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. Even Sri Lanka brought the class of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, and the exciting Tillakaratne Dilshan last season.

These are the superstars that bring fans through the turnstiles. Not only for their obvious individual appeal, but for the expectation that comes with them going toe-to-toe with the Proteas’ own heroes. Who can forget Dale Steyn’s epic battles with Paul Collingwood and Tendulkar in successive New Year’s Tests at Newlands?

It won’t quite be the same when Steyn charges in and speeds through an ageing Peter Fulton, who has not played for New Zealand in any format for three years, to send his stumps cart-wheeling, will it?

Likewise, when AB de Villiers waltzes down the wicket to deposit the uncapped 32-year-old left-arm spinner Bruce Martin into the Railway Stand without any effort, it will almost be considered monotonous for those who will actually make their way to Newlands instead of the beach in early January.

The Proteas management have two options to approach this Test series. Play a second-string side to take care of the business, or gradually blood in some younger players to expand the player base.

I’m in favour of the latter, because regardless of the opposition, international cricket still creates a certain type of pressure that cannot be replicated at domestic level.

And, while this might be slightly emotional, the New Year’s Newlands Test remains the highlight of my cricket year, regardless of the opposition, so I will definitely be there. Hope you are too ...

TWEET OF THE WEEK

@DMBravo46 (Darren Bravo, West Indies batsman):

“Don’t let people judge you. You are who you are, and if you work hard, you’ll create an even better you.”

WHO TO FOLLOW

@RossLTaylor (New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor):

Follow the former Black Caps captain’s candid tweets about the current mess in New Zealand cricket.

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