In these troubled times of cricket, when the ‘Big Three’ are determined to hoover up the lucre and let the rest scrap for the overflow, there comes a need to support each other.
Much is being said and written about the value of touring Bangladesh, questioning whether they’re worthy of a tour by such luminaries as South Africa as represented by the likes of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander. One veteran Sunday writer even questioned why Kagiso Rabada was there, saying he had nothing to gain from such an outing. Apart from experience.
Certainly, the question of why Bangladesh is afforded a place at the top table is one for the ICC in their warped wisdom to answer (Give them Test status, but don’t give them Tests; or at least not by the elite Trinity. They may want a slice of the cake, but the best they can hope for is pap).
But they are there, and so are South Africa. There is value in testing players in such conditions, and there are valid arguments for taking the opportunity to rest players. Dale Steyn was stood down for the bish-bash matches (and should have been stood down for the Tests, too) because as his body starts to creak from so many years of dedicated service, he needs to be looked after. AB was always going to be given time off to attend to his wife in childbirth and was sent home early when the ICC banned him for a long-forgotten over-rate transgression. (If you feel you need rest now, AB, just wait until after the birth…)
There are times when a player needs to be rested, because schedules are hard. What gets my goat is when the players themselves start picking and choosing their tours because they have worn themselves out with self-indulgence.
We’ve been here before. It was Kevin Pietersen who got the ball rolling back in 2012 when he wanted to skip a couple of matches against a New Zealand side undeserving of his talent, so that he could play a full IPL season, reap the full rewards and wallow in the flash and bling. But he still wanted to be in the World T20 squad. At least the ECB took a stand then and he had to quit all forms of one-day cricket.
Now Brendon McCullum will be watching the ODI series in South Africa from the sofa because, says New Zealand Cricket, he’s had an ‘intense period of cricket dating back to the World Cup.’ He certainly has. That intensity included earning fat wads of crisp notes from the IPL and not so fat, but wads nonetheless, from the Natwest T20 Blast in England.
So to recover from all that lucrative exertion, he gives the finger to South African fans. McCullum is a drawcard for those beyond the avid cricket aficionadoes, as much as AB and Chris Gayle (another who picks and chooses, but then, he is practically a freelancer anyway).
I suspect that New Zealand Cricket would not be best pleased if South Africa left such drawcards out of a tour of Down There, eroding an already fickle fan base.
But perhaps not all cricketers are equal. Perhaps some are so valuable that they can choose to play IPL, T20 Blast and Big Bash, rake in the money, and still be rested by the national selectors afterwards. But then don’t be surprised if fans feel they are being short-changed…