Pakistan in South Africa 2013-14

A superficial face-saver

CSA were left with a significant hole - fixture-wise and financially - after the reduced India visit and while Pakistan's tour will help in some respects it is another series without much meaning

Firdose Moonda

November 5, 2013

Comments: 21 | Text size: A | A

The South African team at a practice session at Newlands, Cape Town, January 17, 2011
Newlands has done well out of the hastily arranged Pakistan visit © Getty Images
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Contests without context, rather than dwindling Test crowds or a glut of Twenty20s in a seven-week window called the IPL, will be the death of cricket simply because there are so many. Another has been announced, with South Africa due to host Pakistan for three ODIs and two T20s to add to what has already been an overload of matches between these two teams this year.

Once November is over and this arbitrary series is complete, the two sides will have played 14 ODIs against each other, one at the Champions Trophy, and six T20s in 2013. They at least have contested five Tests, but the glut of short-form cricket has permeated the feeling of playing cricket for the sake of it.

It is impossible to escape the feeling that this next series of matches will represent a going through the motions for some involved. This series was organised to save face. CSA's face.

After the curtailed India tour, which was cut from 24 days of cricket, including three Tests, seven ODIs and two T20s, to just over half that, with two Tests and three ODIs, there was pressure on the South African board to find replacements. They ignored the complaints of supporters, many of whom simply wanted a New Year's Test, but had to listen when sponsors and their own bank balance came calling. And they have probably only succeeded in pacifying the first of those.

Momentum, the one-day team backers, were set to lose the most with their seven ODIs cut to three. Now they will only be missing one and the T20 funders, KFC*, have their matches back. These games are important to the sponsors because it is a marketing and branding opportunity for them, which they signed on for when they decided to associate themselves with CSA.

Whether it will generate positive coverage for them, based on what has already happened with the fixture fracas, is questionable but CSA could ill-afford to take the risk of not having matches as close to the promised number as they could. It was little more than a year ago when CSA was without corporate support at all, following the Gerald Majola-bonus scandal, which cost them far less than what the truncated India series will. They do not want to be in a position where they are begging for backing again.

That kind of business-minded thinking means little else matters which may be why CSA did not bother to tell any of its affiliates the series against Pakistan was confirmed and simply blurted it out via press release. For Western Province and Port Elizabeth, whose grounds Newlands and St Georges' Park, were completely snubbed by the India tour, it was a pleasant surprise. They will now get the limited-overs matches they were originally supposed to host.

 
 
So far, so good until you get to East London and Bloemfontein who found out, in the same way, they had been left off the list completely. Both smaller unions had expressed optimism last week, when it was announced they would not host India as originally promised, that they would be on the itinerary if extra matches were organised
 

For Johannesburg and Centurion it was a bonus. The Wanderers and SuperSport Park are now hosting matches they did not think they would. So far, so good until you get to East London and Bloemfontein who found out, in the same way, they had been left off the list completely.

Both smaller unions had expressed optimism last week, when it was announced they would not host India as originally promised, that they would be on the itinerary if extra matches were organised. Neither were informed before the announcement as to why they were being ignored even when more matches were secured.

One of the commitments CSA made about two seasons ago was to spread the game as far around the country as possible. Venues like Paarl, Kimberley and Potchefstroom hosted ODIs to sell-out crowds. They have now reneged on that entirely, keeping cricket in the big cities only, presumably in the hope of attracting big crowds.

But how do they hope to do that by doing things like scheduling an ODI in Port Elizabeth as a day game on a weekday? Things like that indicate the schedule was not properly thought out and hastily put together, so much so that the two boards do not yet even have a signed document - the very same thing which caused some of the problem between CSA and the BCCI. Haroon Lorgat is flying to Dubai to sign and seal the deal.

It would seem where CSA got it right was to give Cape Town the kindest draw with a T20 on a Friday and an ODI on a Sunday. An insider told ESPNcricinfo Newlands was smiled upon because Lorgat was under pressure from the union where he began his administrative career to compensate them for the way they were treated over the India schedule. Lorgat was also under the same scrutiny from some members of the boards and the sponsors for the fact that he was considered central to the reason India cut short their tour and he turned to an old friend - he was previously a consultant at the PCB - to help ease some of that.

As far as financials go, CSA will not gain much. Hosting a tour costs money. For South Africa, they only make money if India, England or Australia are visiting. They lose money for every other incoming series, including Pakistan. A source close to the broadcasters revealed television rights money will not see CSA in the black over this tour and gate takings will not be sufficient to add anything to profits. That is even if all the matches are sold out.

That scenario is unlikely. Various online forums have already indicated supporters are disillusioned by the way CSA has behaved. After promising a bumper summer, they were forced to cut short India's visit. Many fans have said they will boycott that tour. Prices for India Tests have also been slashed, with it now costing the same as watching a five-day match in Zimbabwe. And many more are just not interested in the overkill of seeing South Africa play Pakistan again, especially given the form of the one-day team.

Match practice may be the only positive to take out of this. South Africa's limited-overs squads continue to search for identity as they lurch from batting crisis to batting crisis and they could use more games to establish combinations, try new players or simply get the ones they have into some kind of form. With the 2015 World Cup 15 months away, it may be time to start getting things right ahead of that event.

It could even be an opportunity to bring Jacques Kallis back a little earlier. He was supposed to play the ODI series against India after recommitting to the fifty-over game with the aim of playing one last World Cup but with that series shortened, he could slot in for this Pakistan one as well to allow South Africa to see how they want to work around him.

For Pakistan, there are also cricketing reasons for which they cannot be blamed for taking up this offer. They continually describe themselves as starved of regular competitive matches and so they are keen to play as much as they can, against whoever offers them a series. They are an enjoyable side to watch and a team that always throws up surprises.

Throughout this year, they've ping-ponged with South Africa in all departments so the actual contests, in isolation, may prove palatable. But they will remain devoid of context and exist, like expensive jewellery, purely the sake of looking good rather than having any actual meaning. And for those in Bloemfontein and East London, they will only be able to watch this superficial series from afar.

*6.20pmGMT, November 5: This story was amended to correct the detail of the South Africa international T20 sponsors

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by huffpost on (November 7, 2013, 20:17 GMT)

A nice article ...explain very well the reasons behind the tour ..

Posted by   on (November 6, 2013, 12:01 GMT)

So much fuss for the people of Newlands missing out on a new years test. What about the miliions of a country who are deprived of international cricket for the last 4 years!!

Posted by   on (November 6, 2013, 9:40 GMT)

Fair enough assessment. May be give a rest to Steyn so Hafeez could score a few? no? Ok.

Posted by android_user on (November 6, 2013, 9:33 GMT)

Pakistan will crush them

Posted by   on (November 6, 2013, 7:51 GMT)

Very disappointed with this post, I was angry at the BCCI for their lack in urgency to commit to a tour and now CSA has managed to throw it back in their face by filling the void by a shortened tour. That is almost as important than having good competitive cricket to watch - Pakistan's bowling attack is testing even at the worst of times!

Posted by Greatest_Game on (November 6, 2013, 7:26 GMT)

Respectfully, what is the context here?

Firdose informs us that Pakistan's tour lacks context, then does a thorough job of clearly defining context: keeping sponsor commitments, Pakistan plays more internationals, SA's ODI team gets spin practice, etc. In purporting a tour without context, she establishes context.

I greatly respect Firdose, but her narrow focus on CSA is shortsighted. CSA is blamed for disinterest in India's tour: that the BCCI is the cause is not considered! By dissecting the minutia of CSA's "loss of face," she fails to recognise the enormous context of Pakistan's tour: if the BCCI acts unilaterally, other countries will fill the void. Cricket will NOT die, but will evolve, & live on, without India. This tour itself is proof.

Amongst peers, CSA lost neither face nor friends, & the hastily arranged WI tour is clearly not "contest with context." Unfittingly for the master, it is commerce costumed as Tendulkarfest.

Context has many faces. None are ever lost!

Posted by Taha_Farrukh on (November 6, 2013, 6:52 GMT)

I dont understand why people are looking at this series negatively as a Pakistani fan I want to see my team play the best again and again. Ind vs Sl and Eng vs Aus are overkills but this journalist dont seem to mind that. (Although ind vl sl have been rare in the few months).

Posted by humdrum on (November 6, 2013, 6:06 GMT)

For some of the die hard pakistan fans, when was the last time your team got runs against a good attack in bowler friendly conditions ? Take out younis and the guy everyone loves to hate- misbah- and the rest could barely manage 100 runs between them.

Posted by humdrum on (November 6, 2013, 6:02 GMT)

@StarHawk: Don't you know that there are one set of rules for 'them' and another one for 'us'? And for the record, I wonder when was the last England- Australia series- Test or ODI- was branded as 'without context'.

Posted by duncanmoo on (November 6, 2013, 5:36 GMT)

Interesting Firdose your sentiments are not echoed by the fans. I say well done to the SA administration for filling in where India dumped us

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Tour Results
South Africa v Pakistan at Centurion - Nov 30, 2013
South Africa won by 4 wickets (with 68 balls remaining)
South Africa v Pakistan at Port Elizabeth - Nov 27, 2013
Pakistan won by 1 run
South Africa v Pakistan at Cape Town - Nov 24, 2013
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