Tennis used to be a big deal in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and no doubt those who followed the sport couldn’t imagine the day when the SA Open didn’t feature on the world tour, let alone today’s reality that sees any seriously aspirant youngster wishing to pursue a career in the sport compelled to travel abroad.
Of course, there are some brilliant and dedicated people working for the improvement of tennis in South Africa at the moment, but that’s not the point. At the moment it lacks serious funding and has become a minority or social sport.
The same fate could never befall rugby or cricket, of course. Well, certainly not rugby. You would think. Woven into the fabric of many sections of South African society and boasting a more robust production line of first-class players than any other country – as well as a world-champion national team – rugby seems bulletproof at the moment.
Cricket, on the other hand, has far less control of its own destiny – certainly at international level. With other worthy but handicapped contenders, the Proteas’ administrators have become (willingly or not) utterly subservient to the money and power their Indian counterparts wield with little pretence at responsibility.
The coach of the Indian national team, Gary Kirsten, may be at the forefront of forward thinking when it comes to the future of the game, but his views don’t even merit a footnote when his bosses get together.
“At the moment,” he says, “cricket is heading towards a time and a place it doesn’t want to be. Every aspect and format of the game that exists today has come about because of Test cricket and the ambition of players to compete for their countries at that level.
“Unless that is recognised and attempts are made to preserve it, cricket will become much less loveable in just a few years. Basically, people will recognise meaningless and hollow ‘competition’ and will become bored with it.”
With thanks to the Mail & Guardian