Cricket: Danger signs of backlash against Lara

Soweto youngsters slow to respond to arrival of West Indies tourists.

ON THE face of it, the arrival of the West Indies team in the sprawling township of Soweto was an unqualified success. A crowd of around 1,000 schoolchildren lined the boundary ropes, a school band bashed out marching tunes and a large international media contingent was on hand to capture it all.

It was just the sort of scenario that Dr Ali Bacher, the head of South African cricket, was talking about when he preached the importance of this historic tour during the tense stand-off between West Indies players and administrators over players' fees.

In reality, most of the spectators had been given a free bus trip and a day off, and the length of the queue at the face-painting stand suggested that the presence of Brian Lara and his colleagues was only the second biggest attraction.

Even the arrival to the crease of Lara, with his side on 46 for 3 against a provincial XI, failed to muster more than mild applause. Many did not even know who was playing, let alone who Lara was. "I think it's South Africa against Australia," one said.

The best-known names came from the ranks of the Gauteng Invitation team. Of the 12-man squad, five were members of the Soweto Cricket Club while the rest of the team was a mixture of young prospects and more established players, such as South Africa's Test opener, Adam Bacher. "I'm here to watch Geoffrey," said one young girl, referring to one of the local heroes, batsman Geoffrey Toyana. He and fast bowler Walter Masemola are perhaps the best-known Soweto cricketers and leave Lara for dead in the popularity stakes. Only the celebration of a West Indian wicket elicited a cheer from the crowd, while the passing of Lara's half-century went by unnoticed - even by the stadium announcer.

If the United Cricket Board were aiming to familiarise the masses by osmosis, this game may have done the trick. Many may not have been watching Lara's superb strokemaking, but at least they had a glimpse of what can be achieved, even if it was only the example set by Masemola and Toyana.

The Soweto Oval is the only cricket ground in the township that is home to around 2.5 million. It is also one of 11 cricket ovals that have been set up in townships throughout South Africa as part of the national cricket board's plan to take the game to the masses.

A typical Johannesburg thunderstorm washed out the match, but spectators at least had the chance to get close to the men they had been watching in the middle. "I've been to Soweto before, so I have a little experience of it," Lara said. "There is so much unearthed talent here and I feel the interest is growing."

The general apathy could have something to do with the fact that many South Africans only bother to take an active interest in sport when it involves their country against another. Or there could be a deeper, darker reason. When Lara made his stand against the West Indies Cricket Board he effectively ceased being a cricket captain and became a shop steward. At least, he did from the perspective of mainstream white South Africa, which is still where cricket in this country is coming from. His actions were widely viewed as reprehensible and irresponsible, and he and his team could yet be the victims of a backlash in the form of public apathy. Indeed, ticket sales for the first Test, at the Wanderers in Johannesburg from 26 November, are reportedly down, and the squad's eventual arrival was greeted with virtual indifference in a country which makes a habit of fussing over visitors. However, the apathy theory will be properly tested only when the serious business begins.

Play started 30 minutes late as a result of what, in the wake of a frantic last few days, must have been a refreshingly trivial crisis for officials of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. Coloured clothing was the dress code for the limited overs match, but the West Indies' gear had not arrived.

So the tourists turned out in their training kit, bland maroon and grey pyjamas with an oddly generic legend emblazoned on their backs: "West Indies Cricket - Team Member". They looked less like world class sportsmen than hyperactive Teletubbies, and several of them played accordingly, not having had sufficient time to recover from their flight.

Not Lara, who in scoring 65 off 60 balls took on the largely callow bowling much as he must have taken on Pat Rousseau. Mercifully for the West Indian bowlers, the rain spared them having to perform. Had they been called on, they would no doubt have completed a scene rendered surreal by the dramatic sky and the sounds and sights beneath it. All that was missing was for the stately grandstand clock to melt a la Dali.

Surreal, too, was the news that Jimmy Adams is out of the tour with severed tendons in a finger following an in-flight altercation with a breadknife. The Jamaican's experience as captain of the West Indies A team which visited South Africa last season will be missed.

SCOREBOARD

Gauteng Invitation XI

v West Indies

One-day friendly

(Soweto Oval, Johannesburg)

WEST INDIES

P Wallace b De Bruyn 22

C Lambert c Pothas b Morkel 2

S Williams c Hall b Masemola 12

B Lara* c Bodi b Morkel 65

D Ganga st Gibbs b Bodi 18

C Hooper not out 60

N McLean c De Bruyn b Bodi 6

J Murray st Gibbs b Bodi 1

S Chanderpaul not out 34

Extras (lb10, nb5, w23) 38

Total (for 7, 47 overs) 258

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-46, 3-46, 4-142, 5-163, 6-177, 7-187.

Bowling: Morkel 8-0-67-2; Masemola 6-0-16-1; De Bruyn 8-1-42-1; Flusk 9-0-57-0; Bodi 10-1-38-3; Gani 6-0-28-0.

Match abandoned - rain

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition