Big city lights

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing the ODI itinerary against Sri Lanka with a man of enormous influence within South African cricket – and a man of good sense, some humility and plenty of cricket ‘nouse’.

“It’s a worthy idea,” he said, referring to the games in Paarl, East London and Kimberley, “but ultimately it’s doomed. Long term, there is only one solution – knock down those stadiums and concentrate on the six major venues.”

I winced at the notion. Having spent many happy days at various Boland venues over the years, and having thoroughly enjoyed every trip I have ever made to Buffalo and the Diamond Oval, not to mention the cities, I found the idea abhorrent and insensitive.

“Like most things in life,” said my colleague, “it comes to money. Do you have any idea how much it costs to keep those stadiums up and running? The upkeep is a constant drain on the resources of the provinces and franchises which play there. They would be much better off with one base.”

It depends on what your definition of “better off” is. Does everything have to be measured in money? Emotionally and spiritually the game was so much better off on Wednesday after Bolanders from as far away as Saldana and Caledon travelled to Paarl to watch the first international at Boland Park for almost a decade. East Londoners have even further to travel if they want to watch the Proteas in Port Elizabeth.

The long-term answer, surely, is to reach a compromise on the ‘dream’ vision of the future and the financial one. The franchise system is here to stay but that does not mean the ‘smaller’ unions should be isolated and marginalised. What on earth does ‘smaller’ mean, anyway? Have a quick look at the six franchise squads and count how many players originally learned their trade in either the Boland or the Eastern Cape before moving north – or being ‘head-hunted’.

The very least those regions deserve is a home international from time to time.

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