Small is perfect

South African cricket’s two-day celebration extravaganza at the Sandton Convention centre presented a logistical challenge of monumental proportions and for that alone it must be acknowledged as a remarkable success.

But it wasn’t just the moving, accommodating and feeding of many hundreds of people which worked – there was much more besides, not least the intention behind gathering the last 25 year’s worth of Proteas together under one roof. Or the majority of them, anyway.

As interesting as the scheduled entertainment was, the highlight for many of both former and current players evening was the ‘cocktail hour’ before the show began and the opportunities afterwards to chat and reminisce. It was certainly the highlight for many of the other guests which included media and sponsors.

“How many times do you watch a T20 match and wish you’d been born 15 years later?” I asked Dave Callaghan whose hitting ability and canny medium pacers would almost certainly have made him a hot property in the T20 market place.

“Only three or four times per game,” the former EP all rounder confessed. “But then, I don’t watch for that long.”

Brett Schultz, Nantie Hayward, Johan Louw, Derek Crookes, David Terbrugge…everywhere you looked there was a familiar face, some grey hair here and there, a bit of extra weight, but nobody cared. Although there was a lot of comparing going on.

Almost 20 years ago I had a lengthy chat with a man who was completely committed, fixated even, on becoming South Africa’s first black Test star. It never happened for him but he enjoyed a full and fulfilling career which included many highlights including a World Cup and, memorably, a small but critical role in the 438 game.

Roger Telemachus is now in his fourth year coaching the Dolphins amateur team and loving every minute of it. “If I knew half of what I know now,” he said like thousands of retired players and coaches before him, “then I think my dream of Test cricket would have come true.”

“You will help me write my book when I turn 60,” Telemachus said raising his glass to me. “If you’re still alive then.” Thanks, Roger.

There should be more of these events in future but they should be for players alone. The playing family would undoubtedly benefit from having more interaction between former and current players. Even the administrators and board members should keep their distance. Sponsors, media and executives have enough opportunity to have their own dinners and get-togethers.

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