JOHANNESBURG – Sometimes cricket can portray itself as too precious - ‘gentleman’s game’ and all that lark.
There’s that part of me that was dismissive of the criticism, concern and self-righteousness expressed in some quarters about the Titans’ decision to field a side sans many of its stars in their final Ram Slam league match against the Dolphins in Durban last Sunday.
They’d earned the right to do so frankly, they’d dominated the league phase of the tournament and their attention had switched to the semi-final that they hosted at SuperSport Park last night.
The Titans are not unique in that regard; watch any other sport and teams and their managers have picked so called ‘B’ teams because their priorities lay elsewhere.
It happens in the latter stages of the NBA each season, in football teams will prioritise one competition over another as the season progresses, heck in World Cups, the very pinnacle of that sport, teams who’ve qualified for the knockout stages will pick their back up players and rest starters with a view to going as far as possible in the tournament.
So, cricket should stop being so damn precious about itself.
But there’s a flip side to the coin as far as the sport is concerned and especially questions about integrity.
A bit like professional cyclists these days are presumed guilty, when any report emerges about drugs and failed tests, so cricket will forever be looked at through a prism of fixing.
Just last week it was reported that three international captains had been approached about fixing parts of matches.
Given the controversial recent history in the RamSlam - the attempts to fix parts of games in the 2015/16 competition, and the cloud that continues to hang over cricket generally - it’s understandable that there will be scepticism about the outcome last Sunday where the Titans lost heavily, thus granting the Dolphins a bonus point, resulting in the KwaZulu Natal franchise, surpassing the Cape Cobras on the log and earning a home semi-final at Kingsmead tonight.
That’s unfortunately something the Titans have to live with, because it’s the reality that cricket has to live with.
Their coach, Mark Boucher, gave several perfectly understandable reasons for why the Titans picked the side they picked - and it was an experienced one too, with senior internationals and players who had represented the SA 'A' team.
Sadly though, and especially given the outcome of the game and what that outcome meant in terms of the competition, eye-brows will be raised.
And I’m torn between those two.
Cricket’s too damn precious, and should get over itself. But cricket has also lost the right, for what seems a common sense perfectly reasonable ‘cricketing’ decision about selection, to also claim innocence.