Champions Trophy fixture 'punishment' for Jo'burg

A South African cricket row has spread to the international arena with Johannesburg shunned for most of the top ICC Champions Trophy fixtures this September and October.

South Africa will play their three Group B fixtures at 20 000-capacity Centurion Park beside the highway linking Johannesburg and Pretoria and defending champions Australia go there for two Group A games.

The showdown between Asian giants India and Pakistan is also scheduled for Centurion plus a semifinal and the final as a split between Cricket South Africa (CSA) and its Wanderers-based Gauteng affiliate deepens.

Wanderers can accommodate 11 000 more spectators than Centurion and Gauteng officials claim the original fixture list had South Africa playing two group games there and that the final was also scheduled for the “Bullring”.

England (twice), Australia, Pakistan and India will appear at Wanderers, which ranks among the best known global Test cricket venues, but Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand are unlikely crowd pullers.

Pakistan should have staged the one-day mini-World Cup tournament in 2008, but security concerns led to South Africa taking over a 15-match event critics claim is an unnecessary addition to a congested international calendar.

Gauteng stirred a storm last month by accusing chief executive Gerald Majola of putting CSA at financial risk and requesting details of an agreement between the national body and the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The IPL, switched to South Africa last April because it clashed with general elections and there was insufficient security personnel to cover both events, fought with various CSA affiliates over stadium hospitality boxes.

Indian officials wanted exclusive use of the suites and while an uneasy truce was declared, Gauteng relented at the last minute and later threatened a court interdict to halt the final.

Legal steps were considered after an IPL demand for 1 000 extra parking places for the climax of the 59-fixture Twenty20 tournament was rejected only when the provincial government intervened.

While the affiliate want talks, CSA has adopted a hard line, taking three fixtures on the England tour that starts in November away from Wanderers in a move set to cost Gauteng millions of dollars.

CSA officials are furious that Gauteng documents describe some of those involved in the dispute as “lunatics” and “dishonest”, and want the affiliate to apologise.

The November 13 Twenty20 fixture against England has been moved to Durban while the central city of Bloemfontein takes over as hosts of the first ODI a week later.

St George’s Park in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth replaces Wanderers as the venue for the last of four Tests between January 14 and 18 against England.—Sapa, AFP


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