Imported, canned peaches

Back in the early 1990s a well-known and popular Cape Town delicatessen boasted a large, painted sign on the wall outside advertising “Imported, canned peaches.” It was an extraordinary thing on many levels and never failed to grab my attention every time I walked or drove past. But it never enticed me inside. Quite the opposite.

Why was a delicatessen advertising anything in a tin? Surely the fresh produce was its core business? Some of the juiciest and highest quality peaches (and other stone fruit) in the world were grown right here in the Western Cape – and still are. Why were they importing it? And so proudly?

The sign was actually painted in the 1980s when sanctions against the apartheid regime meant that trade was extremely limited and therefore a perception was created that anything ‘imported’ was a luxury and necessarily better than what was available at home. It was a weird insecurity with which I was unfamiliar having only just returned to the country.

England, of course, is as robust in its self-confidence as any nation on earth. No imported, canned anything required. Except cricket coaches. They will be 100% imported. Nothing local, not a single one.  At least, not in the country’s flagship new tournament, The Hundred.

Eight city-based Franchises with five Australian coaches, a Sri Lankan, a New Zealander and a South African. Simon Katich will be in Manchester, Andrew McDonald in Birmingham, Darren Lehmann in Leeds, Tom Moody at the Oval and Shane Warne at Lord’s. Mahela Jayawardene gets Southampton, Stephen Fleming is in Nottingham with Gary Kirsten in Cardiff.

The ECB has allocated 130,000 pounds to each team for its coaching budget with half going to the head coach. He will be required to participate in the Player Draft and then coach the team for just under six weeks to earn his 65,000 pounds. No wonder all the big names are there. But not a single Englishman?

I suspect this is not simply a reflection of the ECB’s insecurities and anxieties about the tournament, although that is certainly part of it. There’s no doubt that active county coaches could not have taken one of The Hundred jobs. First of all, the county season will continue while The Hundred is being played. Second, with 18 counties to choose from during the Player Draft there will be some tough and revealing choices to be made. Relationships would be permanently damaged if not broken if a county coach had to cherry-pick from his own squad.

Finally, it’s not just about the ‘coaching’ aspect, is it? It’s about the profile, too, and the marketability. Sure, Stephen Fleming is undoubtedly one of the shrewdest T20 coaches in the world and his record proves that. Tom Moody, too, is a winner. Shane Warne has a long and involved relationship with T20 cricket and captained the Rajasthan Royals to an IPL title but his ability to attract attention to whatever he is involved in matters just as much.

Was there not a single Englishman in a similar position? Not one? What about Andrew Flintoff? Given that head coaches can appoint assistants to do the heavy lifting and ball-throwing, I imagine having Freddy as part of the Old Trafford PR machine might have attracted a few more bums on seats. Perhaps he was too busy. I hear he makes at least 65,000 pounds for an hour-long episode of whatever TV show he’s recording now.

There are more than enough people knocking The Hundred before it has had a chance to prove itself without another one having a gratuitous swing at it from southern Africa, but really – not one English coach? The sign on the delicatessen was finally painted over in about 1998 but I still remember it every time I pass. Now it’ll make me think of The Hundred.

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