South Africa: Sports Lessons
TWO titbits of rare insight have emerged from the international sporting bonanza that has kept many South Africans glued to their television screens for the past couple of weeks.
The first, from the Rugby World Cup in France, is that while the increased international mobility of professional players has its downsides, it is better to be a giver than a taker. For all the gnashing of teeth over the exodus of South African players seeking to secure pensions playing overseas, the Springboks have seldom looked better.
England and France, the main attractors of top foreign talent at club level, are clearly suffering from a lack of depth in their national teams as a result. The mighty pound and euro can be a double-edged sword.
As for the inaugural Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, even the organisers seem to have been taken by surprise at its success — there must be a considerable overlap between rugby and cricket fans in SA, so it was reasonable to expect the “hit and giggle” version of cricket to be overshadowed by the drama in France. Yet crowds were fantastic, the atmosphere electric and the matches surprisingly absorbing.
For a game dismissed by many of the big names in cricket as a sideshow, Twenty20 is proving as interesting as the 50-over game. Far from being glorified bowling machines destined to be slogged around the park, the bowlers’ role has been shown to be as important as that of the batsmen.
The way spectators and players have taken to it, it is not inconceivable that Twenty20 could replace 50-over cricket as the money-spin-ning crowd-pleaser the times demand, though International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO Malcolm Speed was at pains to say, after the event, that the ICC would find a way to ensure all of its brands, Test, 50-over and Twenty20 cricket, can prosper.