Philanthropists come in many shapes and forms but the lucky ones are able to indulge their altruistic concern for their fellow human beings because they have the resources to be able to do so rather than merely the concern and interest.
Over the years a remarkably high number of successful business men and entrepreneurs have become fascinated with cricket having had very little to do with the sport while they were making their fortunes. Perhaps the most famous is the American billionaire John Paul Getty.
Having spent much of a lifetime cutting deals, attending meetings and hiring and firing at a rapid pace, there is something about the pace of cricket which starts as intriguing, becomes alluring and then intoxicating.
A little further down the philanthropists ladder (financially, at least) is an 83-year-old gentleman from The Netherlands who fell in love with the game “too long ago to mention” and remains as passionate about its well-being today as he was back ‘then.’
For the last 20 years he has hosted an annual dinner at the Kelvin Grove club next door to Newlands at which between a dozen and 15 men discuss various aspects of the game, nationally and internationally, and speculate about what the future may hold and what the past gave us. Dear Hylton Ackerman was missed by all though he would have been proud at how many times the glasses were raised in his honour.
Bas doesn’t spend too much time in Cape Town but he manages to fit a few meetings in and around the dinner each year. He is chairman of the Dutch branch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. But he was particularly interested this year in hearing opinions on whether T20 was going to take over the world and kill off Test cricket. He was not at all pleased at the prospect.
Being my debut at the dinner I considered politely reassuring Bas that everything would be fine and the ICC’s stated aim of “maintaining the primacy of Test cricket” would be successful. T20 cricket would know its place. But his was the sharpest mind at the table that evening and I was enjoying a particularly good glass of Sauvignon Blanc so there was no chance of obfuscating when the question came to me.
“Bas, there will be four or five times as much T20 cricket being played in five years time as there is now. It will be like American baseball which is played 260 days a year. It will just be ON all the time because the advertising revenue can sustain it. And all the talk of most players becoming travelling mercenaries will come true,” I said.
“But Test cricket will survive because it is the hardest and most challenging form of the sport and the history of sporting endeavour tells us that mankind has never, ever gone backwards in a sport and set lower targets and easier standards. The need to challenge ourselves is as certain as the need to feed ourselves.”
“So, bad news and good?” Bas asked.
“There will be much less Test cricket, sadly, but because of that it will be appreciated all the more. Perhaps the top six or seven countries will actually get off their backsides and organise a Test world championship…”
“You are an optimist,” said Bas with a smile I couldn’t read.
“Yes Sir, I must confess that I am.”
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.