Hell, ODIs are top of the pops!


Hell, ODIs are top of the pops!

In a post-World Cup reflection, LOUIS DE VILLIERS professes shame at his lamentations about 50-over cricket.


IT'S not a sin to preach nonsense, but it's a sin if you know it's nonsense or keep defending it out of pure stupidity (domastrantheid in Afrikaans). And I have a confession or two regarding ODI cricket and nonsense preaching.

Speaking of “domastrant" — have any of you come across this concept in another language?

For example, the French panache is untranslatable. The Thai sanoek, too, is indefinable somewhere between fun and satisfaction.

Domastrant" feels unique to Afrikaans speakers, but quite possibly they only diagnose the human condition better than the French or Thais.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Neither here nor there

Scrap ODI cricket, I said at the time.

It no longer serves any purpose.

Nowadays, it's neither here nor there; somewhere in between proper cricket and the bash-everything-as-hard-as-you-can T20 blitz version. I said that all these years.

Now, as many others begin to sing the same hallelujahs, I confess sheer shame at this stupid lamentation.

There is little doubt that one-day cricket should find a new place on the international calendar. It doesn't make nearly as much money as T20, nor does it have the 146-year history of Test cricket behind it.

No one on earth really cares any more about these watered-down, artificial, meaningless two- or three-legged affairs, without all the players making millions in the never-ending round of flash-and-pray T20 tournaments that keep every cricket-playing country half afloat financially these days.

Just the right medicine

But hell!

Was the World Cup fun for once.

A golden middle ground between all the lads who scoop sixes over third man and are desperate to reverse sweep and all those dogged never-say-die batters who just hang on so their brilliant teammates can build spectacular innings from the other end.

There is room, if we take the champion Aussie team as an example, for Glenn Maxwell and “Manus Labuschain” in this format. The latter is a painstakingly thorough Test specialist, the former bashes the leather off a white ball, and both approaches have their place in 50-over cricket.

The imminent death of this format is generally accepted, but I reckon these days about every fourth year it is just the right medicine, provided the format also takes precedence every fourth year at international level before the World Cup.

It creates refreshing unpredictability.

That so few matches were nice and dramatic has a lot to do with the fact that the players have become unaccustomed to that precise mix of block and bash that one-day cricket requires of them; that responsible movement through the gears until the pinch-hitters step in and everything starts to happen in fifth or sixth.

Proteas, Virat, Rachin, Shami, Pat

So, a few memories about why I suddenly started enjoying ODI cricket again after years.

  • Let's not beat about the bush — the Proteas winning matches just made this one that much more enjoyable. See what the English have to say about the tournament: they are not in the mood for much more. For a change, I always thought the Proteas stood a chance and in the end only laughed that “Oh my word" laugh twice out of 10 times for their efforts.
  • Virat Kohli and the Indian top order. They don't exactly scoop boundary shots over third man and neither do they jump around to sweep the other way. Their batting is almost old-fashioned, thoughtful and forward, but Kohli's nine fifties in 11 innings is an even more impressive statistic than his total of 756.
  • Afghanistan's almost ridiculous rise — these guys played their first international match less than 20 years ago and they beat England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and almost Australia before a cramp-riddled Glenn Maxwell went nuts and probably provided the best innings to date in ODI cricket.
  • The young Kiwi Rachin Ravindra, who was included as a left-arm spinner but can bat a bit too, went home as an outstanding batsman with a deft off-break.
  • The pathetic performance of England, whose media and fans are now all complaining that it was a disappointing tournament in an outdated format.
  • Mohammed Shami, the other day still homeless and bald, these days with a Kallis-quality hairdo and the Muslim who Narendra Modi, the extremist Hindu nationalist prime minister of India, was forced to thank for his 24 wickets in a paltry seven matches. 
  • And Pat Cummins, who as Australia's captain this year said no to the Indian Premier League and all sorts of other distractions to focus on this tournament. And then won it.

Nobody complained about Hansie

But I was of course also talking nonsense about the Proteas.

First of all, I expected them to be on the first plane home after the league stage; in fact, I was slightly pleasantly surprised that they even made it to India.

Temba Bavuma's performance before the tournament was such that there should have been no controversy surrounding his inclusion, but in India he struggled badly. Questions about his captaincy were sometimes misplaced, but Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram both performed well as captains previously.

I have often argued with sports coaches about that ridiculous platitude “form is temporary, class is permanent".

Yes, Saturday afternoon is of course also temporary and in white-ball cricket all the more so; form is a fairly reliable measure in a sport where you get only one chance with the bat.

Kohli, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar were all better batsmen and weaker captains than Bavuma. Mike Brearley, Darren Sammy and Nasser Hussain were weaker batsmen and better captains.

Hansie Cronjé's batting average at World Cup tournaments was less than 30 and his strike rate just over 80, yet very few people complained about it.

Bavuma was rather poor, but the unpleasant attitude towards him sometimes made me wonder if it wasn't a case of boiling racist frustration over the Springboks' victory in France. Criticism of Bavuma's performances is not misplaced but its ferocity raises questions.

After all, South Africa have just participated in cricket's world cup tournaments for the 16th time (eight ODIs, eight T20s) and have not yet reached a final. Rugby-wise, we won the World Cup four times out of eight attempts.

Long ago, the Proteas were much more popular than the Boks, but these days I wonder how much the lack of love had to do with the latter's continuous struggles around the turn of the century.

If all your countrymen agree that you're shit, you probably are. But if everyone is in your corner, you can win three knockout games in a row by one point.

Everyone blames the Proteas for what was probably our best performance at a World Cup since 1992, but that anyone began to believe they might win is a feather in the cap for these guys  who just couldn't manage to lift the cursed mediocrity of all the crooks and chokers whose struggles a decade or two ago put even more pressure on them.

I'm suddenly already looking forward to the 2027 tournament in South Africa. By that time, Marco Jansen and Gerald Coetzee will almost certainly be unplayable, and even if a few of our leading batsmen are no longer young, there is a chance for men like Dewald Brevis, Tony de Zorzi and Tristan Stubbs to get their eye in.

My hope has flared up again, to which one can only say: Good Lord, here we go again.

Now for the darts

It's Friday and pretty much all sports are anti-climactic for the time being until the darts kick off at Ally Pally on December 15 (I kid thee not, it's perfect background material at worst and at best, well, more on that soon).

And because Melbourne can rock harder than most cities these days, here's three for our victorious frenemies from Terra Australis:

These guys have released 25 studio albums and 16 concert recordings in 13 years, just in case you feel self-consciously lazy while listening to the rock:

And there is never any reason not to welcome the weekend with the Young brothers from Sydney and their pop band:

♦ VWB ♦

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