Victory by 20 runs, a Hashim Amla century and a total of 304-7 all served to improve the collective mood of South Africa’s players, fans and administrators when the Proteas took a one-nil lead at Centurion on Wednesday evening in the three-match one-day international (ODI) series. Winning always does that.
These are tentative steps for the team back into 50-over cricket after the wretched end to the World Cup in Auckland in March. Any notion that beating a virtual Black Caps “B” team in the middle of winter helped ease the pain of that memory is far-fetched.
New Zealand are missing five first-choice players for this series and South Africa, perhaps, three. At least they know who their first-choice players are. Several places in the home side’s starting XI are up for grabs, not just the troublesome all-rounder’s place at number seven. David Wiese had a debut to forget in that slot on Wednesday but will be given the next two games to atone.
Morné Morkel and JP Duminy are both with their heavily pregnant wives during the series and Faf du Plessis is injured.
Questions about Dale Steyn’s appetite for the format following his disinclination to play in Bangladesh were certainly answered by his commitment on Wednesday. He was at his excellent best.
Rilee Rossouw’s contribution of 89 from 112 balls drew mixed reaction. Runs are runs, of course, but in different circumstances against different opposition it could easily have been a match-losing innings.
He failed to score from an astonishing 63 of the 112 deliveries he faced. Ten-and-a-half maiden overs. In most matches that means defeat.
But the greatest failing of this series, sadly, has been at boardroom level. It has not been televised in New Zealand because Cricket South Africa did not reach agreement with Sky Sports NZ over an appropriate fee.
It is easy to understand CSA’s frustration at being offered a price below a “market-related” value but their inability to reach a compromise was deeply disappointing for several reasons, not least because cricket-loving New Zealanders have been unable to watch their team in action.
What is the market? Where is it? There is no market. There is a sole trader and a sole purchaser. CSA created the product (this series) and Sky New Zealand is, to all intents and purposes, the only serious buyer. The failure of both sides to concede a little ground looks selfish and short-sighted.
Sky NZ director Richard Last said: “They came with a number that we thought ‘crikey, that’s pretty steep’. We tried to see if we could make it work and we thought ‘no, they’re being far too aggressive there’.”
“There’s often a bit of toing and fro-ing and we went back with another offer. You would hope that a deal would have been agreed.”
Some money is better than no money when the product, like fresh fruit, has a sell-by date. But a CSA spokesman told the Mail & Guardian that a “dangerous precedent” might be set. Nonsense. Precedents in the world of television rights last as long as fresh fruit.
“Nobody wins in this situation. We certainly don’t, viewers don’t and Cricket South Africa doesn’t. I feel a bit sorry for NZ Cricket because they can’t do much about it, but they get in trouble too. We just wanted to try and get a deal done and we tried to show willing,” Last said.
Missed a golden opportunity
CSA has missed a golden opportunity to cement a relationship of trust and mutual co-operation with New Zealand Cricket, never mind a PR window that may have opened globally: “We are entitled to expect 100 and we are extremely disappointed with an offer of 40, which barely covers our costs, but in the interests of all cricket-lovers we are, for this series only, willing to share coverage of the series at no gain. Hopefully this won’t happen again in the future.” That statement was never issued, obviously.
Sky NZ has been more savvy: “Normally, in the past, we have always managed to reach agreement, so that might suggest that it’s not us that’s being unreasonable,” said Last. It is the first time Sky has not televised international cricket for 12 years.
“We would really like to think this is the exception that proves the rule. I would like to see us go another 12-13 years without missing one,” Last said.
There was unofficial talk among CSA officials about the importance of respecting and protecting the Proteas brand. Selling it cheap wasn’t acceptable. Perhaps marketeers get a bit hung up on their jobs. Yes, the Proteas brand is a good one, but they haven’t, in fact, won a single international limited-overs trophy since 1998.
The Big Three takeover of the global game is quickly killing off the “small seven”. To have any chance, the little guys need to stand together. CSA is the leader of the little guys. Being unable to reach agreement on broadcast rights for a series as trivial as this is loathsome.
The world game needs to change to survive. CSA is the only board to lead that change.
Being unable to reach an agreement with a minor nation for the pitiful broadcast revenue for a meaningless series between two under-strength teams is pathetic. There is so much more at stake.