You have to have a sense of humour working in sport. At least, it helps.
Despite what many people may believe, the greatest joy of sport is about the competition which it provides, not the result. Supporters may think that winning is all that matters when it comes to enjoyment but the truth is, the tighter the competition the greater the enjoyment.
In most close competitions there has to be a winner and a loser, but we struggle to accept that. Does a Wimbledon final which goes to five sets with a scoreline of 6-0, 0-6, 6-0, 0-6, 8-6 constitute a close contest? I think so. South Africa came within a single wicket of winning the first Test and now they’ve lost the second 0-6. That happens.
Has there ever been a time when South African cricket supporters have accepted a defeat with good grace and without hysterical over-reaction which condemns the entire national team to the scrap heap? Seriously, when has a defeat been greeted with humility or equanimity? When did we last say: “I’m proud of the way they played but you can’t win all the time?”
OK, I accept there wasn’t much to be proud of this time. Except, perhaps, the manner in which the team conducted themselves in defeat. But I know that being proud of losers isn’t the ‘South African way’ so go ahead, have your say. They were crap. But they were only crap during this match and there are two more to play!
Admittedly, it’s actually been a crap year – played six, won one, lost four! That’s crap. But at the same time, it was only a year ago we were celebrating one of the greatest Test – and series – victories in our history at the MCG.
As much as people feel frustrated by the team’s demise in Durban, they could do worse than ask themselves what they will be saying about the players if they win at Newlands. Will a Smith century or a another Kallis hundred mean they are still deserving of the axe? Will those who say that Boucher is past his sell-by date change their tune if he wins the match with another fighting 50 and half a dozen catches?
Makhaya Ntini, sadly, will remain the central talking point ahead of the Newlands Test whether he plays or not. As Smith said after Kingsmead, he is the first to admit when he isn’t bowling well but his self-belief is irrepressible and he will be desperate to make amends in the New Year Test. Sadly for him, he faces the disappointment of not making the final XI.
Happy New Year!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.