South Africa v India, only T20, Johannesburg March 30, 2012

Fitting farcical end to meaningless game

Perhaps its biggest failing was that the match was marketed as a tribute to Jacques Kallis. Only an invitation to contest a pillow-fight or a game of noughts and crosses would be a more ill-fitting way to honour him
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On any other day, this could have been an extraordinary game of Twenty20 cricket. South Africa smashed a total at almost 11 runs to the over, India's chase began speedily and the match was set up for a thrilling finish. Today was not that day, though. The game was labelled a farce and no matter which way you look at it, that's pretty much what it was.

Sure, all traditions have to start somewhere and this one is just trying to find its feet so it probably should be cut some slack. It had its beginnings at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in January 2011, when the idea to have a marquee game to bid farewell to Makhaya Ntini became reality. Accompanied by a Bollywood concert, it was a novelty. If it was repeated once a year, at a suitable time, it would have been able to retain that novelty.

But the naked truth about the way it was handled this year is that it felt forced. Neither CSA nor the BCCI made any attempt to disguise how loudly money talks in their decision to have this game on this day. It has been slotted in a little over a week after India's journey at the Asia Cup ended, five days before the IPL begins and less than 48 hours after South Africa returned from their tour of New Zealand. Slotted in is giving it too much credit, it has been squeezed in the way a couch has to move through a doorway, awkwardly.

South Africa countered the scheduling maze by picking a squad that involved only one player who was in the Test squad in New Zealand - Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the most economical bowler of the night. Their fringe players, such as Colin Ingram and Farhaan Berhardien, gave a decent account of themselves but whether their performances will materialise into more chances to play international cricket is questionable. There's every chance that most of what happened in this match will be forgotten.

Gary Kirsten, the coach, suggested that South Africa would treat this match as a "fairly light-hearted" affair. In fact, they handled it with even less care than that.

The squad did not hold a single training session. Late on Thursday afternoon, the day before the match, Johan Botha had not even met Kirsten, nor did he have any idea about who would be in his starting XI. Two hours before the start, none of that had changed. Dane Vilas was clueless whether he would keep or Morne van Wyk would get the gloves. Tsotsobe had only just arrived from Port Elizabeth and didn't know if he would play. South Africa's management were sending a message that they would treat a match without context with the casualness it calls for.

India treated it with more respect. They arrived two days before with some of their best players, held a net session and discussed the match with sincerity. MS Dhoni usually has a hint of mischief in his voice but that only came when he left his press conference and slipped in this prophetic remark. "Let's hope it doesn't rain," Dhoni quipped. But, rain it did. The showers added a different dimension of meaninglessness to an already hollow game and almost fittingly brought it to its end.

Perhaps its biggest failing was that the match was marketed as a tribute to Jacques Kallis. Only an invitation to contest a pillow-fight or a game of noughts and crosses would be a more ill-fitting way to honour the all-rounder. Kallis has served South African cricket as a colossus of courage and class. This match was neither of those things. It was crass.

It had all the usual ingredients of a T20 match. Music, dancers, fireworks, cheeky shots, body-flinging fielding, and a constant drone around the stands that got louder and louder until it was deafening. Kallis and all that he has given South African cricket deserved more that. Actually, he probably deserved less. A less meaningless and more thoughtful way of showing appreciation for his service to the game. He also deserved it at a different time, considering retirement is not in his immediate plans.

The man himself would never say so and the money being given to his scholarship foundation softens the blow of such a garish gesture. If only the blow was not so hard to start off with.

Edited by Abhishek Purohit

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Fast_Track_Bully on April 2, 2012, 5:12 GMT

    funny to see people who criticizing Indian bowling not mentioning about the wickets fell during chase! Does that mean 'great bowling'?? If we had a 20 over match, India will chase down that total. India proved that in recent ODIs, then what?

  • Fast_Track_Bully on April 2, 2012, 5:03 GMT

    @Shaun_wick. Why it is hard? India won the ODI WC in 2011 not T20! And in ODIs Indian performance is not that bad as England. Then what?

  • Shaun_wick on April 2, 2012, 1:37 GMT

    Hard to Believe Indian team as the world champions. Lucky to be the world champion at least on paper...lol

  • dummy4fb on April 1, 2012, 17:14 GMT

    Stop complaining, ill planned or not, S.A. batting put up a good show...Kallis's shots were a delight to watch and some of Pathans deliveries reminded me of the pathan when he first came onto international cricket.The rain was the downer, and theres nothing anyone can do about it. And if you want to complain about commercialization of Cricket, start with IPL, not a single t20!

  • csowmi7 on April 1, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    Sad to see the Indian team go downhill so fast. After the World Cup we were a formidable side and all Indians believed that we would rule cricket at least for the next 2-3 years. But the Indian team lacks the same passion and intensity that once made them a serious force. In the past even when we toured and played against better oppositions in their home like Australia in 2007 and 2003(who were nigh invincible) and South Africa in 2010 at least 2-3 batsman stepped up(partly owing to the fact that Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxan were younger and better) and we managed to be formidable with whatever bowling resources we had. IPL itself cannot be blamed as it has led to many good youngsters coming to the fore but the duration of IPL certainly needs to be questioned. 16 matches should be reduced to 8 matches a side like the BBL and the Big bash league.

  • here2rock on April 1, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    A meaningless game, what was the purpose to it? BCCI has lost the plot, chasing money after money, we need somebody with a vision.

  • harmske on April 1, 2012, 7:55 GMT

    @Jose Puliampatta - "nothing is impossible for BCCI (except, winning & consistency)." Well said my man, well said.

  • dummy4fb on April 1, 2012, 6:36 GMT

    Though it's end up as a farce but there a crucial question still looming for the Indian cricket administrators, that of bowlers. Since last 2-3 series they contributing a good fraction towards the losses. No doubt, in India there was and is batting is the main concern, and because of overlooking the bowling department not only from top playing countries but with the sub-continent teams also we struggle time and again. Even they sink so low that even Bangladesh terrorize them! We can clearly say that because of poor bowling we can't even create some fight abroad (confirm from scoreline of recent aboard test). Whereas we have so many bowlers today who give glimpse in the past two three years that there could be a team of bowlers only. Where are the Ishant, RP, Munaf all gone? We haven't searched a genuine wicket taking fast bowler. I think we are still living in a delusion of strong batting line up which can chase any target, however this is also denied at occasions.

  • neerajprasher on April 1, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    i just can believe manoj tiwary went to australia,in asia cup and now 1 T20 in SA didn't play any game.they keep giving chances to rohit sharma.and he failed most of the time.they should give tiwary a chance intead of raina or sharma.

  • g.narsimha on April 1, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    HAKAPU- WELL SAID i lost count number vof times INDIA chased down 300+ scores in all over the cricketing world the so called best bowling attack could not defend , 330, in DHAKA , had it been our team, we would have seen flood of coments rubbishing indian bowling , even if we win chasing t hose totals tht wiill be termed as luckily, flat track , no drs, or bcci manipulated the results, they never atribute success to our team we lost in eng , aus, ind bashers are still celebrating , the funny thing is they rubbished our proven greats as flat track bullies , cant score out side they are good only at home , now see eng won nothing in ind for decades ,thrashed us in eng tha too t after a long gape , 5-0 drubing in ind ,3-0 in uae , now in SL , see thier, coments we could not play , that this blah,,,, but no body is saying they are not good in asia or out side .

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