Can it go on like this? Can South African hearts take the pitching, heaving, surging progress of the Good Ship Protea across the Caribbean? Tom Eaton wonders how any cricket lover, however salted, stands being run on to reefs one day, only to be plucked to safety the next, and gusted onward as if nothing had happened.
At last, the real World Cup has begun. Bantamweights and basket cases have been sent home and, after a fortnight of anarchy on the field -- and tragedy off it -- the tournament now has a chance to settle into some sort of rhythm, writes Tom Eaton.
There are many reasons why Australia will continue to be better at cricket than South Africa for the foreseeable future. Most of them have to do with the psychological, emotional and intellectual differences between the white populations of our two countries; but sometimes the chasm can seem infinitely wide.
In an age in which people assume character by observing idiosyncrasies, Bob Woolmerâ€™s laptop had taken on profoundly different meanings for fans spread out across the vast spectrum of the gameâ€™s politics. Many admired it as a sign of his openness to change, and his attention to detail. Others derided it gently in public and viciously in private.
It is somehow fitting that cricket should have got the concept of ratings so badly wrong. It is, after all, a sport in which a draw is as noble as a win, and in which rivalries can exist simultaneously over 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 weeks or 10 years.
It was clear, by the time South Africa annihilated Pakistan at Newlands in the fourth one-dayer last week, that the Proteas will attempt to win the World Cup next month without a spinner. Robin Peterson is travelling to the Caribbean, and he might even get a game, perhaps against Holland. But there is almost no doubt now that spin, as a strategic option for the West Indian showpiece, is off the table.
Before Wednesday night, Aamir Sohail's voice was a lonely one -- that of a prophet howling in the wilderness -- and had he suggested that the cricket series currently under way was a dress rehearsal for a possible World Cup semifinal, he would have been ridden out of town on a rail, writes Tom Eaton.
On the second afternoon of the final Test of the summer, as Pakistan softened and dribbled into the cracks like an ice-cream cake in the Sahel, a debate raged in the Newlands' Railway Stand. The issue of the hour was the correct pronunciation of Ashwell Prince's name, and while the poses of the rival camps were identical, their positions were diametrically opposed.
Rudi Koertzen can't talk right now. The golf course, he confesses, by way of explanation. A later time is quickly arranged, and he returns to his round. It was a brief first contact, but a telling one. The man widely credited as the best umpire in world cricket had left his cellphone on, presumably as a courtesy to all those who wanted to reach him.
An official silence blanketed Cricket South Africa on Wednesday afternoon as media liaison Gordon Templeton politely played bouncer: no statements would be made until the International Cricket Council had finished its disciplinary machinations over Herschelle Gibbs.
Typically changeable Cape Town weather, the pragmatists would have said as the skies opened over Newlands last week, forcing the final Test against India into a gripping if soggy final act. There's always one rainy day around New Year, the veterans would have pointed out. Nothing out of the ordinary.
In a sport in which even, chivalrous, contests are considered the ideal, it might seem incendiary to suggest that the series now winding up at Newlands has been a splendid one. South Africa's wretched plunge to 84 all out at the Wanderers was hardly the stuff of narrow squeaks, writes Tom Eaton.