Supersport Park and the Titans have not been given the credit they deserve for being the greatest success story in South African cricket since unity was established.
The venue is well maintained, the pitch and outfield are superb, facilities are user-friendly and the atmosphere generated by a routinely packed crowd at international fixtures is second to none, including Newlands and the Wanderers.
Richard Pybus and his coaching staff, including the indefatigable Chris van Noordwyk, have produced a winning team which has brought silverware to the Centurion trophy cabinet and seen it compete on a more consistent basis than any other team barring the Eagles in the last five years.
There is no more fitting place for South Africa’s one-day series to start.
The problem with success, however, is that it sows the seeds of complacency as surely as a dandelion is deflowered in the wind. As long as the successful are aware of the phenomenon then there is no reason the seeds should be allowed to grow, but they must be able to view themselves objectively and dispassionately.
A recent announcement that the Dolphins had signed the Titans duo of Alfonso Thomas and Pierre de Bruyn raised an eyebrow or two in the cricket community but inspired little other response. Interestingly, a statement from the Dolphins suggested that the Titans had “agreed to release” the two players from their contracts.
Actually, it would seem that the two players were sacked after a disagreement with captain Martin van Jaarsveld and Pybus. Not only sacked but told to pack their bags and get out with immediate effect.
Van Jaarsveld has always been a man to swim against the tide of public and popular opinion while Pybus, having coached the Pakistan national team, has the hide of a rhinoceros. They are firm and uncompromising leaders who have unwavering conviction in their decisions and beliefs.
But, I am told, they do not even listen to alternative viewpoints let alone tolerate debate. Any questioning of their command is regarded as insubordination, as Thomas and De Bruyn found to their cost. A contract of employment is supposed to act as a guarantee against unfair dismissal. Whatever the two players did to enrage the captain and coach, I am told it did not amount to a breach of contract. A significant number of the Titans squad are feeling disillusioned and downtrodden, a fact that Van Jaarsveld and Pybus may or may not care about.
Another seed has been sown off the field, too, where children have been banned from visiting the radio and television commentary boxes.
Baragwanath hospital, with the busiest casualty and emergency department in the country, hosts visits from entire classes of school children. New York fire stations show kids around, as do law courts and prisons. You may have spotted the odd one out. The commentary boxes do not involve life and death.
Having a fellow commentator or journalist escort a couple of eight-year-olds, wide-eyed with excitement, into the commentary box is one of the most rewarding and genuine experiences in the business. It seems not only harsh but irrational to deny children this experience. Supersport Park is the only venue in SA which has this policy. And they have taken considerable care in marketing themselves as a ‘family venue,’ too.
If there are currently ‘blips’ in the Titans camp, they will be overcome because the chief executive, Elise Lombard, is amongst the very best in the country. But even managers as brilliant as her cannot keep an eye on everything at the same time, and that’s when the seeds of complacency can take root.
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