Time for winter cleaning

Very seldom do South Africa’s cricketers get the chance to take stock of their lives and relationships. All too often there is no time to pay rates bills, let alone reflect on where they are going as individuals and what direction their lives are taking outside of cricket.

This winter has been one of those rare occasions. For those not involved in the IPL (and there were many more than you might have realised), the opportunity now presents itself to clear up niggling injuries, finalise investment ‘opportunities’ that so many people would have been pushing and try to catch up with family and friends who have been neglected for so long.

There is also the issue of health. General, overall health – both physical and psychological. For the majority of the country’s players, both Franchise and provincial, the time off will represent little more than a massive school holiday. Time to enjoy life outside the constraints of training and practise. Time to cash in on money earned, play golf and have a good time. Nothing wrong with that.

But young cricketers would be well advised to take a moment or two to consider their long-term future. After all, with ‘A’ tours and other similar commitments, their time ‘off’ is less than they might imagine. The cycle of cricket is becoming more relentless than ever.

The same applies to those of us who follow the game relentlessly. Many would say I have been fortunate to be covering the game for 25 years; others might suggest my time could have been more rewardingly spent. But that is neither here nor there. It has been a splendid time and, with good fortune, there will be many more years to come.

Taking this rare opportunity to “follow up” on a few physical ‘niggles’ these past few months, it transpires that my years touring the world have left me with Bilharzia and various potentially very serious mycoplasmas in my blood. My guts have been taking the strain for many years, but I thought that was just part and parcel of the job. And it is, of course. Travel the subcontinent on a tight budget and you’re bound to have digestion ‘issues’! But dealing with them should also be second nature. But it was all too easy to put off.

Bilharzia and its brother and sister worms and parasites, I have learned, kills five times as many people in Africa as Aids. But most aren’t even diagnosed. African men and women just die younger than elsewhere, that’s it. It’s accepted. And yet the cure is both painless, cheap and (hopefully it stays this way) side-effect free. In this country, it is called Biltricide.

And the moral of the story? Appreciate and cherish life? Get lumps in your body and irregular bowel movements checked out? Stop fighting and squabbling? Insert your own, if necessary or relevant.

But I will conclude with an observation made on over 40 overseas tours. It is always, without exception, the paranoid and cautious tourists who get sick. Those of us who take calculated ‘risks’ with local food and water remain, by and large, functionally healthy.


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