The Pink ODI has become a massive day
It was the third day of the final Test of the series between South Africa and Australia and the Jane McGrath Foundation and Cricket Australia partnered for the first ‘Jane McGrath Day’ at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Three years later, when Australia faced the Proteas at the Wanderers, in the second Test of a shortened series, the third day was declared ‘Pink Day’ with Cricket SA and some of its sponsors partnering with the McGrath Foundation to raise awareness and money about the fight against breast cancer.
Around that time Cricket SA started planning for its own awareness campaign around breast cancer. According to statistics from the Cancer Association of South Africa, approximately 19.4 million women aged 15 years and older live at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer - the cancer affecting women in South Africa the most.
Cricket SA hosted the first ‘Pink ODI’ at the Wanderers in 2013.
Along with the Proteas’ then kit sponsors adidas, they dressed the players in full pink gear.
Over the years, and a change in apparel sponsors to New Balance, the players and Cricket SA have embraced the ‘Pink ODI’ to the extent it has become one of the marquee events not just on the cricket calendar, but the wider South African sports calendar too.
That is a remarkable development.
It often takes years to create that sense of a ‘big occasion’.
The Soweto Derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs has a history that dates back 50 years; the Springboks and the All Blacks’ rivalry goes back to 1921 and this year will see the teams face each other for the 100th time, while the New Year’s Test at Newlands dates back to South Africa’s return from sporting isolation.
All of those events have history, which adds to their attraction.
The first ‘Pink ODI,’ was played in 2013 only, but in seven years it has created a level of excitement similar ‘start up’ events can only dream of.
People fly in from around the country to attend, opposition players have quickly picked up what a special atmosphere the match creates and tickets are sold out well in advance.
In the case of this Sunday’s game, the ‘house full’ signs went up in the middle of the final Test between England and South Africa.
It has been a triumph for CSA, even through the most difficult times for that embattled organisation.
The ‘Pink ODI’ is now an event where people want to be and be seen.
It has colour and style, merging a celebration of sport with the various serious issue of breast cancer awareness in a country where too many know too little about the condition. Over R5-million has been raised over the last five years with all proceeds going to the Breast Care Unit at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg.
It is a special event for a worthy and serious cause and it is a credit to South African cricket - from the administration, to the players and the public - that the ‘Pink ODI,’ has been embraced in the manner it has in the last seven years.