Prominent cricket journalist Neil Manthorp, in his blog ‘Manners On Cricket‘, has torn into Cricket Australia, accusing them of indulging in “casual prejudice” in cancelling their proposed tour of South Africa.
In a post on Manners On Cricket titled “Casual prejudice and hypocrisy”, Manthorp lists down the various, changing demands of Cricket Australia ahead of the scheduled tour to South Africa in March, which he says have emerged over the past week. The series was postponed earlier this month after the touring team stated that “the second wave of Covid-19 and the new virus variant in South Africa posed an unacceptable level of health and safety risk for the players”. Manthorp decried the ‘cynical dishonesty’ of the decision.
“If Cricket Australia’s last-minute cancellation of the tour was merely spineless and callow,” he wrote, “it might have been excusable. But there was a background of cynicism based on what looked and sounded like casual prejudice. It transpired that there may also have been plenty of hypocrisy, selfishness and dishonesty to complete the recipe.”
The article states how Cricket Australia’s long list of demands being met weren’t enough for them to travel to the host country, despite Cricket South Africa, who hosted Sri Lanka for a Test series in December, making all provisions for Australia’s stay.
According to Manthorp, Cricket Australia declined the option of sharing the Irene Country Club with the South Africa team and insisted on keeping a base separate for the home team, which would have incurred a huge cost.
Had it not been for a four-point over-rate penalty, Australia would be ahead of New Zealand in the World Test Championship table.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) February 2, 2021
Further, CA reportedly opted against using a commercial airport, instead, preferring to charter a plane to Lanseria, but had to change plans again and get a private terminal in Johannesburg, as the ‘Qantas Dreamliner’ was too large to land at Lanseria, all of which required CSA to seek clearances from government departments.
“To appease direct concerns about the virus, South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, provided guarantees that the country’s best medical facilities would be made available,” wrote Manthorp. “Let that sink in. The Minister of Health guaranteed preferential treatment to a visiting cricket team during a global pandemic.”
After the announcement last week, Nick Hockley, CA’s interim CEO, had said: “We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen,” while expressing CA’s “extreme disappointment” at the postponement.
The postponement of the series will have a huge revenue impact on CSA, who are already reeling with financial losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will reportedly cost them millions of rands. It was also jarring for South Africa followers when it came to light that Australia players were preparing to participate in the 2021 IPL, which Hockley mentions has a “proven bio-security method in place”, despite the lack of clarity with the venue so far.
“Just as parents who want to take their children out of school for a day to maximise a long week-end can acquire them, so can national cricket boards,” wrote Manthorp. “It became embarrassingly obvious that Australia’s players had no intention of touring South Africa but, far worse, they had no stomach for telling the truth.”
Manthorp was written for an array of esteemed publications, including serving as Wisden Cricket Monthly‘s South Africa correspondent. He has written five books on cricket, including biographies of Gary Kirsten and Mickey Arthur, and ghosted works for Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher. He is also an esteemed commentator, and is currently broadcasting for talkSPORT covering the India-England Test series.