Under normal circumstances, a review of a nation's sporting progress would be inclined to be critical of failures. Losses would be analysed, disasters decried. But normal circumstances in modern South African sport imply failure, and thus hardened to sporting infamy, the armchair critic must refrain from launching unfairly pointed or excessively accurate barbs.
Even those of us who have been critical of Nicky Boje over the years had to blanch this week as the national selectors cut his throat, tied him to their chariot and dragged him around the walls of the Wanderers. He may have spent much of his Test career rivalling Ashley Giles for the title of the most innocuous left-armer in the game, but nobody deserves to have his dignity mutilated like that.
Reading through the heap of post-mortems performed on their cricket team by English journalists this week, the overwhelming impression was that the shock and palpitations being expressed were almost totally contrived. The analyses, though tending towards hyperbole, were fair and eloquent, and the outrage and frustrations well directed.
Before the start of the series won on Wednesday night by the resurgent South Africans your correspondent forecast that India would be lucky to win two out of the five matches. In retrospect that prediction has been proved hopelessly off target: a whitewash is what they deserve, and if they scramble together a win at Centurion on Sunday, Graeme Smith's team will feel justifiably robbed.
As a fortnight of limited-overs spectacle dawns this weekend, one can't help watching the newly arrived Indians with the grim, respectful pity usually displayed by onlookers in that part of the film where the dapper young engineer has drawn the short straw and must now leave his fiancée to fly into space where a comet and nuclear bomb have his name on them.
Three weeks ago, both the Champions Trophy and the Proteas were in the dock, accused of promoting listless, bloated, second-rate cricket; of privileging corporate waffle over pragmatic common sense. This week, both were cleared of all charges and carried shoulder-high from the court, writes Tom Eaton.
There's an old joke about a journalist sent to Shady Pines to discover the secret of longevity. The first pensioner he meets attributes his great age to booze -- a bottle a day for 70 of the past 90 years. The second, a crone of staggering decrepitude, owes it all to cigarettes -- started when she was nine, smoked three packs a day until today, where she finds herself a reeking, yellowed 100-year-old.
Cricket people pride themselves on the equanimity that their infamously fair game implies about their souls; and this adoration of evenhandedness is never more explicit than in the sport's idiom. A cross-cultural lingua franca thick with yin and yang, cricket's discourse is so accepting and stoic that it can seem to verge on some sort of Victorian Buddhism.
Amid all the optimistic diagnoses and happy anticipation that usher in major international cricket tournaments, it has been easy to forget that the Champions Trophy, already in its second week, is mortally ill and dangerously short of well-wishers. Indeed, players, pundits and sponsors have been queuing for over two years to pull the plug on its life-support.
The archetypal Western bar brawl is curious for its wanton pointlessness: everybody slugs everybody else with considerable vigour, and yet very few seem to know -- or care -- what the circumstances of the original disagreement were. It's as if there are two default states -- placid chaw-mastication, and wholesale butt-kicking -- separated by nothing but a couple of seconds.
Bafowethu -- Our Brothers -- are taking a breather halfway through a photo shoot in a grungy-chic Cape Town studio, and seeing them sprawled, stylishly slothful, across a couple of couches in their uniform tracksuits, itâ€™s easy to assume that one has stumbled across a Santos or Ajax development squad.
It is not surprising that certain elements in the Asian media have been trying to inject into the public discourse some outrage about South Africa's decision to leave Sri Lanka, writes Tom Eaton. Cricket writers are still media people; and media people do not like to see their deity -- money -- spurned in favour of simpering humanist sentimentality.