Proteas in Sri Lanka, day 17

The ennui of another featureless day on tour appeared to be significantly off-set by the prospect of watching Christiano Ronaldo once again playing football for Manchester United, almost two decades after his first debut for them and 12 years since his last game at Old Trafford. 

Most people on the crew appear to be keen Premier League followers and even those who support Liverpool and Chelsea are intrigued to see how Ronaldo goes. Even I’m interested although my attention will be drawn more towards the relegation six-pointer between Arsenal and Norwich.  

Two other items of breaking news livened up the day. England batsman Dawid Malan (courtesy Paarl Boys High) withdrew from his commitment to the Punjab King’s XI in a clear sign that he has been told he will be selected for the Ashes tour in mid-December and his replacement in the IPL is Aiden Markram. The other was my decision to go ‘full local’ at breakfast this morning with string-hoppers, chicken curry and dahl. Who needs corn flakes and omelette every day? Delicious. 

In complete fairness to Markram, there are other, better-qualified batsmen but, with a charter plane leaving Colombo on Wednesday morning in a ‘bubble-to-bubble’ transfer containing ten players from Sri Lanka and South Africa as well as various other umpires and officials. Markram, in other words, is in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Many international sportsmen have enjoyed similar strokes of good fortune. Now it’s up to him to take his chance. It could well be the making of him – if he gets enough opportunities. 

The saga of the cancelled fifth Test between England and India rumbles on and provides occasionally heated conversation in the breakfast room, although not as hot as the chicken curry. It seemed to me the writing was on the wall for the Test match when the BCCI asked their compatriots at the ECB to reschedule it when the revised dates for the IPL’s continuation were announced. There were only four days between the end of the scheduled Test and the first game of the IPL. Squads need to do six-day quarantine. The Test match is worth £25m to the ECB. The IPL is worth £450m to the BCCI. The maths is as simple as it gets. 

Finally, and this will be the subject of several columns in future months, sponsorship. Specifically, domestic sponsorship of provincial cricket. There will be 14 provinces at the start of this season and, as I have written many times, there is insufficient money in the game to sustain them all. As soon as the new domestic structure was announced, I suggested that that only the fiercest competitors would survive, and I wasn’t talking about the players. 

The Central Gauteng Lions have been voracious in their pursuit of ‘deals’ with sponsors and service-providers. Barely a week goes by without them announcing another partnership. I said even the smallest partnership between cricket and the local community might make a difference, from suppliers of player lunches to soap in the change rooms. In years gone by I may have paid just cursory attention, or even ignored ‘small’ sponsorship announcements. But now I applaud them wholeheartedly. 

They could be the difference between survival and extinction because in 4-5 years time there will only be 8-9 professional provinces. Congratulations to Boland Cricket and Jacobs Jam Company. May you both prosper in future.  

And here’s a ‘cheers to that’ from PJ and Tex, two of the best cameramen in the business. 

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