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June 9, 1999


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Playing with problems

Fanie de Villiers

Fanie de Villiers Of all the countries in the world of cricket, it is quite amazing to find that every single one of them has got a lot of problems of their own. Let's have a look at the different countries in this World Cup and their problems:

English cricket has the popularity of soccer to cope with. It cannot be easy to play cricket under the soccer cloud. Another obstacle would be their 'old school tie' administrators. I think we can all remember what Will Carling called them. Am I so wrong to speculate that their conservative nature hampers the evolution of cricket in England?

One thing I am sure of is, that I would have loved to play cricket in England, looking at the strong currency they are earning. I would have been most happy to try and cope with their problems if I was in their shoes.

South Africa, on the other hand, has got a more serious problem. A lot has been written about our particular problems. Firstly, it was said in the press that many a time a lot of junior and senior level players struggled to to make provincial teams. The reason is not because they were not good enough, but because of the so-called quota system in South African cricket. Every team must represent the new South Africa.

It is now being said that provincial teams at the school level must have four to six boys of colour in their teams, while at the senior level, two to three players must be on the senior provincial staff.

I must admit that it has been told to me by a lot of teachers and selectors, that in most cases, the best boys are not chosen, and you can say that it is unfair to a lot of white boys who have played and practised the game to get to that level of performance.

I am working for a company called MTN, that is a cellular sponsor of the United Cricket Board and the development side of cricket. We are doing our best to succeed in this process to get the best players in the development areas to play for their provincial sides. A lot of coaching is taking place because the game of cricket was not really played in the past in these areas.

Herchelle Gibbs, Paul Adams and Makaya Nitni are prime examples of our boys that came through the development programme. They were nurtured and coached, and some of them were literally pulled out from a very poor background and placed into schools that could create opportunities for them to become professional sportsmen..

Nitni played Test cricket and a number of one-day internationals, and it was alleged by media people that there were much better players around who were not picked because of the so-called quota system. I am quite sad to report that he was probably our best example of all that, though now he has been jailed for six years for raping a girl.

Poor Sri Lanka is fighting a battle against big countries like India and Pakistan. Numbers do make a difference. There are just not enough boys playing cricket in Sri Lanka to cope with the numbers of other subcontinent countries. Test cricket will always be a problem for them.

India and Pakistan have got a seasonal problem, because they play cricket in winter and summer. The temperatures in summer are so high, that they are forced to play in the last few months of winter and the first few of summer. Temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees on certain summer days. A further problem is that they cannot play cricket against each other without having fans fighting because of the old history of the Kashmir war. It cannot be easy to play cricket when you know that you could be abused or attacked by one of the other's supporters on any day and in any stage of the game.

The West Indians are struggling. Basketball is taking away a lot of players from cricket. If that is not enough, the difficulty in administrating the game between all the different countries in the Caribbean is a bit of a nightmare.Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica are just few countries to mention that have nothing to do with each other. All these countries have got their own government and are not linked in any way. I cannot believe how they could have ruled cricket for 17 years. We South Africans rely strongly on patriotism to see us through in hard times. They don't have too much in their midst. Their season of just over two months is not conducive to the development of the game in the West Indies. There are simply not enough games played.

Another big obstacle is that most of their players play overseas, in South Africa, England and Australia, to make a living out of the game. A lot of those seasons overlap their two-month season, and they obviously pick the first option because they are getting paid good money for that.

Nobody really gets paid for their Red Stripe season. I am sad to say that the best West Indian players are not really playing for their country, because to play in the West Indian side you have to play in the Red Stripe competition. A lot of good players just cannot afford to play in the Red Stripe. A prime example is Vasbert Drakes. He should have played for the West Indies this year. He is much better than most of the bowlers in the side.

The Zimbabweans have got growing pains. They don't have enough players in Zimbabwe to have strong competition. I don't think that the development of cricket exists in that country, because funding can be a problem too.

The cherry on the cake is probably New Zealand. They are stuck with the Australians. They had been in their shadow for quite a few years and it must have been quite embarrassing for the Australians to lose to them in the World Cup.

Australia have very few problems. They are probably the only country that is not at war with anybody. Things should be fine, but I am afraid to say that they are always in the middle of some controversy. If a player is not swearing, then one is fighting in a pub. If it is not Shane Warne slighting the captain of another country, then it is an Australian umpire who has had a bad day at the office.

Just the other day they batted slowly and obviously bent the rules to make life easier for themselves. Always the Aussies. I thing we must accept that they are controversial and a little bit different.

Good luck to all the problems of all the countries, especially the South African problem, which is their top order in the World Cup. They are simply not scoring enough runs.

Bad luck India. After South Africa, I had all my money on you to win the World Cup. I was obviously wrong.

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Fanie de Villiers

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