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.


Gauteng Invitation XI

v West Indies

One-day friendly

(Soweto Oval, Johannesburg)


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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London