PODCAST: Proteas and England want to put on a show as cricket finally returns
CAPE TOWN – Forget about the suits. Forget about the Fundudzi Report. Forget about everything negative that has dragged South African cricket’s name through the mud the past eight months.
The Proteas are back in action against England on Friday night (6pm start) at Newlands for the first time since Covid-19 forced them into hibernation in March. This is reason enough to celebrate, and a time to appreciate the people behind the scenes that have ultimately made this happen. Even if it’s just for the three hours the game lasts.
There are obviously still genuine concerns around Covid-19 and the well-being of the players, particularly after two Proteas’ tested positive in the build-up.
Team doctor Shuaib Manrja spoke at length on Thursday about the testing process, which he described as “stressful” and the “mental toll” its takes on the players, especially if they need to self-isolate like the two affected players have done.
But Manjra also said that “in the real world you always have distractions” and that dealing with Covid-19 has built up “resilience” within the squad.
Having played during the heart of the epidemic back home, England captain Eoin Morgan is certainly fully aware of the responsibilities on the players’ shoulders. While sport may always have placed itself in the leisure and amusement spectrum, the motive to entertain the cricket-starved public watching at home on their couches instead of inside the stadium is even greater now.
“As a sportsman, there are very few times you play sport or contribute to things when people actually really need it,” Morgan said. “I went through this myself towards the back end of our first lockdown period when sport just reintegrated into people’s TVs at home, and the smile it put on my face and the community that I live in was outstanding.
“Given how bad the circumstances, how bad they still are, particularly at home, it’s important for us to go out there and hopefully put on a bit of a show. Because it’s certainly a lot of different challenges at this moment in time but certainly sport can help relieve that a little bit.”
The impact of Covid-19 has not escaped the usually free-spirited and generally detached from the hum-drum of real life, South African captain Quinton de Kock either. De Kock knows his team have an opportunity to bring some relief to the masses after months of discontent on all fronts.
“It’s a fresh start. The guys are keen to play. It’s been a while since we’ve played for the Proteas. The guys are keen to change what’s been going on around cricket. We’re the leaders and we’ll try to lead from the front. The guys are keen to get going.”
De Kock will have to lead his team into battle without the two Covid-19 players and all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius, who has been ruled out of the England series due to a hamstring injury that will require “three to four weeks” recovery.
Furthermore, the skipper wasn’t open to discuss who his much-debated opening partner would be at Newlands, although the smart money is on Temba Bavuma to resume his partnership upfront with De Kock, leaving the promising Janneman Malan on the sidelines.
The pair were red-hot during the last series, which England edged 2-1 back in February after three gripping contests, with De Kock lacing 131 runs at an average of 43.66 and manic strike-rate of 214, while Bavuma also blazed 123 at 41 with a strike-rate of 153.75.
This is the type of entertainment everyone tuning into their television sets on both SuperSport and national broadcaster SABC this Friday evening will hope to see not only from De Kock and Bavuma, but also from England’s bevy of superstars for the long wait is finally over.
LIKELY TEAMS AT NEWLANDS
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (capt, wk), Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klaasen, Jon-Jon Smuts/George Linde, Kagiso Rabada, Beuran Hendricks, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (capt), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood.
Start: 6pm, TV: SuperSport & SABC3