South Africa v West Indies, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 1st day

Where have all the spectators gone?

Where have all the spectators gone

Roving Reporter by Keith Lane at the Wanderers

December 12, 2003

Text size: A | A

Where have all the spectators gone? It's a fair question, as in the past we used to see crowds pouring into the Wanderers. Today we had sunshine and great weather, the usual ingredients of South African cricket. At the World Cup final between Australia and India nine months ago we had all that - and a huge crowd too. But today South Africa are facing West Indies, and the crowds seem to have disappeared.

Naked stands greeted the players as they entered the arena, met by a ripple of applause from what appeared to be fewer than 2000 spectators, squeezed mostly into the shadier parts of the stands. Prices had been slashed, entertained arranged, and the weather perfect ... but still the locals stayed away. Across from the main stand is the Wanderers golf course, which by the look of the playing traffic appeared to supply more entertainment than the cricketers could give.

The open grass banks in front of the players' changing-rooms, once a prime and sought-after area to watch cricket from, looked like a beach on a cold windswept day, with the odd umbrella, and children chasing up and down the embankment. Out on the terraces was a lone English flag: maybe it's cheaper to be in South Africa than to follow the English team in Sri Lanka, or perhaps this hardy supporter just likes open spaces. Below him were three locals with a South African flag, semi-hidden behind an advertising hoarding.

At the toss, a television pundit introduced South Africa's captain Graeme Smith as Graeme Pollock. Maybe it was an omen of things to come. The South Africans were in their nifty new green-trimmed SuperTech outfits, but still there didn't seem to be much interest. Maybe it's because it's a Friday: perhaps the weekend will find the turnstiles spinning, the over rates increasing, and the locals popping out of their little bubbles to support a South African team that is aching to entertain. The West Indians, of course, have always been entertainers, even if they have been knocked out of their stride on a tour in which medical bulletins have outnumbered playing ones.

Meanwhile, up in the press box, it seemed that someone had forgotten to tidy up. The whole Wanderers ground underwent an extensive upgrade prior to the World Cup, but a disbelieving media contingent was greeted by broken window-panes held together by rope, electric cables hanging from desks, and telephone cables taped to the floor.

Rather like the idea of a full stadium, the tradition of collar and tie in the press box on the first day of a Test series is also a thing of the past. The two old-school (or is it old-school-tie?) traditionalists stood out like sore thumbs, while some of the more luridly dressed journos would, a few years ago, have found it very difficult to get into the ground, let alone the media area.

But one welcome old tradition did return to the Wanderers, as the spectators were once again allowed onto the playing area (the pitch excluded, of course) during the lunch interval. Many a game of cricket sprung up, with bats flaying and tennis balls flying, and maybe there was a future international out there. Let's hope they tell their friends, and the crowds swell.

Keith Lane is the manager of Wisden Cricinfo in South Africa.

RSS Feeds: Keith Lane

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print

    In Larwood country

Diary: Our correspondent makes his way from Trent Bridge to Nuncargate to find out more about one of England's most fearsome fast bowlers. By Sidharth Monga

    Pitching it up

How a medical charity convinced the MCC and the Swedes to help spread the message of cricket among kids in Afghanistan

    'I'd run to watch if Gower was playing'

Part six: Martin Crowe on David Gower's footwork and the steely determination beneath his elegance

    A tale of two SSC Tests

In 1993 and 2006, South Africa's bowlers had vastly different results in Colombo. Brett Schultz and Makhaya Ntini look back

The value of a cricketer's brand

Michael Jeh: Andrew Strauss will recover from the indiscreet remark about Kevin Pietersen, but his image won't be entirely as it was

News | Features Last 7 days

Defensive captains' extended test

The duration of the Test series will allow Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni to reassess the strategies, or provide enough time to get thoroughly exposed

India look for their Indian summer

Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

Bevan's best, and a combined Indo-Pak team

A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches

Five key head-to-heads

From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series

India's bowling leader conundrum

The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

News | Features Last 7 days

    Defensive captains' extended test (118)

    The duration of the Test series will allow Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni to reassess the strategies, or provide enough time to get thoroughly exposed

    India look for their Indian summer (87)

    Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

    India's bowling leader conundrum (44)

    The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

    What spinners should know about bowling in England (35)

    Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind

    Five key head-to-heads (33)

    From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series