So what is ‘meaningless’?

I’m the first to admit that I’ve complained about ‘meaningless’ international cricket matches and how they ‘devalue’ the genuine product. And I’m also perfectly happy to admit that some of my journalism may not have been as balanced as it should have been and was almost certainly prompted by my own jadedness.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve had over the years is seeing the game’s greatest players competing in arbitrary matches against inconsequential opposition – on a far too regular basis. It’s a bit like the family member who has ‘gone away for a while’ – you’re not supposed to talk about it.

The best players are never supposed to admit that some internationals are more important than others – hence we get the “every time you wear the badge/put the shirt on, the intensity is the same.” Rubbish. It isn’t. The only player I ever heard admit that until the last year was Steve Waugh. Why, he asked, did the term ‘raise your game’ exist if your game was the same for every match?

So here we are in Harare, presiding over a triangular T20 series between the hosts, Bangladesh and a weakened South Africa. And it doesn’t even have official status. Couldn’t get much more meaningless than that. Right? Wrong. In 20 years of covering international cricket, I can barely recall a bilateral or triangular series in which there has been more fun, determination and ‘point’ for all the players involved here.

Zimbabwe survives on scraps and the chance to play against the ‘big boys’ comes around all too infrequently. There are young and gifted players emerging all the time in this country and the only real chance for them to learn is in real match situations.

Bangladesh were so desperate for international cricket they would have played a series against any ‘B’ team, in any country and any format. They had three invitations knocked back. You don’t suppose they’re sitting in Harare thinking “why are we here?” do you?

And what of South Africa? If any of Kallis, Steyn, De Villiers or Morne Morkel were here, I would have jumped on the ‘pointless’ bandwagon. But they’re not. They’re resting.

Faarhan Behardien. Go and have a look at his record during the last domestic T20. To borrow an informal quote from Gary Kirsten, “who the hell DOES that?” How many batsmen are that consistent for that many games in the least predictable format? How does Kirsten get to know and see a bit more about this man?

Chris Morris. Club cricketer having a purple patch? More to it than that? Who can tell from a net session? Kirsten wanted a first-hand, meaningful look. Faf as an opener? Worked in the IPL. But Kirsten knows a thing or two about opening. A week is serious quality time in surrounds like these.

And by the way, one very important final point. Kirsten made a low-key, private approach to Zim Cricket about the possibility of playing five ‘practise’ matches. He backed himself to learn enough about players in match conditions to satisfy his initial curiosity. Time off the field is equally important, of course. It wasn’t his doing that Bangladesh jumped aboard or that SuperSport chose to televise the tournament. That had nothing to do with him.

SuperSport chose to televise the tournament because they knew there were enough of you interested in watching it. So to those who call it irrelevant, boring or meaningless, may I suggest a more constructive approach might be to turn your television off – or to a different channel – and shut up. Alternatively, get your backsides to Harare and come and tell Berhardien and Morris what a waste of time this is. And how you don’t care if they can work a spot in the T20 World Cup squad in September.

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