Unprepared, empty, rainy … why bother with Kingsmead?
There were already alarm bells ringing before the players strode out for Durban’s first-ever Test in August.
A relaying of the ground seven weeks ago and floods barely a month ago meant unpredictable weather and unpredictable pitch conditions. It was a curious decision. No one was really sure how this would all come together. One thing we knew for sure was that the stadium wasn’t going to be full. We knew that because it hardly ever is.
Boxing Day is always festive; it’s normally an excuse for thousands of 20-somethings to get dressed up and boozed up and, while they’re at it, watch a bit of cricket. Even then, as the Proteas and England took to the field last year, it wasn’t sold out. Only 65 overs were bowled that day due to rain delays, and as the hangovers settled in, the crowds diminished with each day.
It’s not like the Proteas ever do particularly well at Kingsmead either. In the last six Tests at Kingsmead, South Africa have only won once. That win, a 10-wicket victory against India in 2013, was Jacques Kallis’s last Test match. Only 7 000 people bothered to pitch up to see one of the greatest all-rounders of all time score a century as he bowed out.
Port Elizabeth hosts the Boxing Day Test this year against Sri Lanka, so perhaps this is why CSA tried to squeeze Durban into the schedule now. The Durbanites had plenty of time to organise their schedules and make the trip to the stadium. Yet barely 2 500 people turned up to watch their side play their first Test in eight months, and almost a full day was played, so no excuses there.
To be fair to the groundsman, on average August is the driest month of the year in KZN, and the unexpected floods in late-July were an uncontrollable situation. There were plenty of controllables, though, and they failed. Why did that relaying process only take place seven weeks ago? Did they think they had sufficient time to get the ground ready for Test cricket? Did they have to wait for the Comrades to finish in late May before they could start the process? I dare not suggest this, as then surely Kingsmead shouldn’t have been selected as a venue for this series in the first place.
When things go wrong, control the controllables. If there is any doubt surrounding the state of the ground, then why put covers only on the pitch and the square when it rained overnight on day two? The outfield was completely exposed.
Let’s also not forget that we’re still in winter. It gets dark very quickly in Durban. Light was always going to be an issue.
Poor scheduling has also affected the match between West Indies and India at Port of Spain in Trinidad. But at least people wanted to go and watch it. At least there’s an atmosphere.
It’s bad enough that this is only a two-Test series. India and Bangladesh are set to play the first ever one-off Test series in early-2017. It’s depressing for the traditionalists to see such little Test cricket played. Now we’re going to have to see a straight shootout in the second and final Test.
Over to you, Centurion.