How will the cricket summer of 2013/14 be remembered? Retirements? A first Test series defeat for the No 1 team in the world in four years? The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s bullying tactics? Another semifinal exit at an ICC tournament? The ICC’s proposed changes that will put the power in the hands of the richest three boards under the leadership of a man prohibited by the law from heading up the board in his own country?
While the players have tried their best to garner attention this summer – South Africa nearly chased down 450 to win a Test, Jacques Kallis called it quits (in Tests) and Graeme Smith left international cricket behind – the sport this summer was dominated by its administrators.
Cricket South Africa saw the man it appointed as chief executive removed from any involvement in affairs regarding the shortened tour by India to this country, ostensibly, some conspiracy theorists reckoned, to ensure he played no part while the boards of Australia, England and India rammed through their proposals concerning the leadership of the International Cricket Council.
Haroon Lorgat has plenty of experience of the inner workings of the ICC, based on his time as that organisation’s chief executive. It’s one of the main reasons Cricket SA, after a protracted period of administrative upheaval, appointed him to the position, to provide stability and expertise. It’s also why the BCCI, in the main, wanted to ensure he wasn’t around (or near) the table when talks about the proposed changes to the ICC’s administrative structure were taking place.
It’s certainly a plausible theory with Narayanaswami Srinivasan, the now defunct president of the BCCI, fingered as the gunman on cricket’s ‘Grassy Knoll’.
The ICC did find itself in an incredible position as its high and mighty met in Dubai on Thursday to put the finishing touches to the controversial proposals. How on earth could it justify welcoming Srinivasan to that meeting with open arms and appointing him as its chairman when the High Court in India – which described his presence within the BCCI as “nauseating” – removed him as that body’s president?
Yet amidst all this drama, and with Cricket SA still coming to terms with changes following its own scandal, a shortened tour with India took place. As a result, CSA suffered losses somewhere in the region of R150 million and the rest of the cricket world took note: Mess with India at your financial peril.
South Africa dominated the ODIs, hung on and then almost extraordinarily nearly won the first Test before, amidst a flood of emotion over the retirement of Jacques Kallis, klapping India in the second Test in Durban with almost no one watching.
Kallis’s retirement (from Test cricket), announced on Christmas Day, came as a shock to many, not least his teammates. It was later revealed that he wanted to go out at Newlands, but with the tour being shortened and the New Year’s Test match lost, there was no such possibility.
Australia thumped England and arrived here with plenty of bravado, threatening to inflict more harm through Mitchell Johnson. They were true to their word in Centurion, where Johnson put Ryan McLaren in hospital, and so damaged South Africa psychologically that they produced possibly their worst session of cricket for eight years on the third afternoon, giving the chirpy Dave Warner a century on a plate.
In Port Elizabeth, on a slower pitch, they proved themselves the more skilful team, with Dale Steyn producing a mesmerising performance on the fourth evening to blow Australia away.
And then in Cape Town, he started the final Test with a ludicrous wide, setting the tone for an Australian triumph, though not without the South Africans putting up one hell of a fight on the final day.
That match saw the end of the career of Smith, who in decades hence will come to be seen as having changed the landscape of South African cricket in the post-isolation period. Where once there was shame and mocking, now there is great pride taken in wearing the Protea badge. Smith was largely responsible for that. His exit deserved greater fanfare and a better result – but he didn’t get it.
By the end of the summer, the Cape Cobras proved they were the best domestic side in the country and the Dolphins showed they were the most improved.
The national women’s team garnered attention hitherto reserved solely for the men and the Under-19s offered hope of a bright future.
And then you remember the administrators, and that they still have a part to play, and you just want to crawl into a dark corner and cry.
... and the awards go to (our Super XI) ...
FLIP FLOP AWARD (CSA: Chris Nenzani): Back in January, Cricket SA stood up to the cricket authorities of Australia, England and India, saying their proposals for changing the ICC’s leadership were “fundamentally flawed”. Nineteen days later, with CSA having agreed to the proposals, CSA president Chris Nenzani said: “Nothing in life is perfect.” Indeed.
PATIENT PRACTITIONER (Faf du Plessis): So we reckoned Adelaide 2012 was a fluke. This summer Du Plessis showed that those types of innings will be the hallmark of his career. In the first Test against India at the Wanderers, he was at the crease for 395 minutes, nearly winning a match that seemed impossible to win.
HOPELESS EXPORT (Jade Dernbach): Nine overs for 99 with three wickets at the World T20 probably means Dernbach won’t be wearing an England jersey again. All the loudmouths going on about a loss to South African cricket were pretty quiet. One of those, we should be glad, got away.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENTS (Graeme Smith/Jacques Kallis): The South African side just seems so much smaller without these two around – and we’re not referring to their physical presence. Massive figures not just in South African cricket, but on the world stage too. Virtually irreplaceable, they made South African cricket great once more and awards should be named in their honour.
BLUSTERING BUFFOON (David Warner): England’s batsmen had “scared eyes” in Brisbane, AB de Villiers tampered with the ball in Port Elizabeth and then lets not forget the howling in Cape Town when Faf du Plessis was out. Perhaps it would be advisable for Cricket Australia to find him a muzzle. He’s not interesting, just dof.
WILD THANG (Dale Steyn): Nostrils flaring, veins popping, saliva spraying, Steyn is a glorious sight when in celebratory mode. Scary too. Chittagong and Port Elizabeth have provided indelible images of the summer. Not a man to be messed with, ask Brad Haddin, who is still trying to find his middle stump.
NEW BALL PLEASE (David Miller): The most astonishing individual performance in domestic cricket came as he powered his way to 93 off 37 balls in the RamSlam T20 play-off against the Titans. Poor Roelof van der Merwe copped a 34-run hammering in the 18th over, while car-owners were consulting their insurance companies as Miller deposited cricket balls into Samora Machel Drive.
FIRE ON AUSSIES (Kagiso Rabada): His approach looks like it’s occurring in slow-motion. That’s very deceptive, though, for by the time Rabada’s in his gather, a classic action helps him to release the ball at 140km/h. Too quick for most professional players, certainly for the Aussie juniors as Rabada picked up 6/25 in the Under-19 World Cup semifinal.
GIRL POWER (Mignon du Preez): “We used to walk around in the track-suits and people would ask us who we were. Now, they go, ‘oh you’re the captain.’ So it’s nice to be recognised,’ said Du Preez. Making semi-finals will do that. Now the onus is on her, the team and Cricket SA, to ensure their progress continues on an upward curve.
HE-MAN (Ryan Harris): Harris was supposed to have knee surgery, but put that off to tour SA, because injuries had stuffed most of his career. The medical staff had to regularly drain fluid from the knee. At Newlands as South Africa tried to hang on for a draw in the final Test, he picked up the last two wickets.
NO HIT-TOO MUCH TALK (Rohit Sharma): He could barely lay bat on ball in the first ODI at the Wanderers. Then tried to engage Steyn in a verbal war in the Durban Test saying: “Wait until you come to India.” What? The same India where Steyn has 26 wickets in five Tests at an average of 20.23. - Sunday Independent