At least there was passion on the field in Durban

Will Knight Columnist

By Will Knight, Will Knight is a Roar Expert

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    So dismal were the crowds in Durban for the first Test, it’s surprising there’s still ambiguity over what was said between David Warner and Quinton de Kock.
    Surely the few that bothered to turn up at Kingsmead heard everything.

    Were there really critiques of wives and sisters? Ex-girlfriends? Pets? Fashion? Favourite bands? How lame did it get?

    It was a real pity, because the cricket between the second-ranked South Africa and Australia, ranked one spot behind them, was top notch.

    Just 3957 spectators filled the 25,000-capacity venue on Day 1, and although it was a working day, the crowds were still woeful over the weekend. It was embarrassing. The quality of the combatants involved deserved better – for their skills, certainly not their bickering.

    Leading into the series, perhaps the more pressing issue was the potential ambivalence of the players and not the local fans.

    Sandwiched between the cricketing world’s two biggest Twenty20 competitions – the BBL and IPL – there was a danger that a bit of air would be taken out of the contest. The rise of franchise cricket is one of the most prominent issues facing the international calendar and its appeal to fans.

    Although the three formats have the potential to prove symbiotic, the concern for the ICC and some national associations is that T20s will erode the popularity of one-day cricket, and probably more significantly, Test cricket.

    Eight players from the Test teams – Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada – will head off to India immediately after the fourth Test in Johannesburg.

    Of course Australia and South Africa are two great rivals with a tradition of viciously fought Test battles, but the worry might be those that are IPL-bound may pull back on intensity and energy levels, preferring to coast towards their next big payday.

    There was none of that at Kingsmead.

    Apart from the Warner-de Kock stink, there was plenty of passion.

    David Warner in dressing room

    David Warner and Quinton de Kock in their fiery exchange (Independent Media screenshot)

    Starc was bowling thunderbolts. So was Rabada. Josh Hazlewood was nudging 145km/hr and Morne Morkel was slapping the gloves too.

    There was bluster. Bravado. Nathan Lyon was chirping. Faf was up for the fight. Starc gave Theunis de Bruyn a big spray.

    Warner and de Kock went too far.

    Insults flying around the infield – such as those alleged between the two – are never pretty. The clear consensus is it shouldn’t have gone that far and it’s not the example the top players should be setting.

    But no one wrapped a bat around someone else’s head. It was schoolyard trash talk that didn’t lead to anything physical. They should both have the maturity and resilience to move on.

    At least we know there’s no IPL-motivated complacency in this series.

    The second Test is going to be a cracker. Hopefully a spat like the one between Warner and de Kock isn’t the sensationalism we need for intrigue to spark and the crowds to flow through the turnstiles.

    The players have proven the passion for big Test series is still there, and so it should be every time you play for your country. But for a number of sports that face the club versus country dilemma, often it’s the cashed-up clubs that flex their muscle and win over the international game.

    Given the heavyweight showdown set to unfold over the next three matches, if the local fans don’t turn up in much better numbers than Durban, the future of Test cricket in South Africa appears gloomy.

    Will Knight
    Will Knight

    An AAP writer for more than a decade, Will Knight does his best to make sense of all things cricket, rugby union and rugby league, all while trying to have a laugh along the way. You can find him on Twitter @WKnightrider.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • March 7th 2018 @ 8:25am
      Paul said | March 7th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      The only issue I have with your very good article Will is, the 4th day day on-field banter was not “schoolboy trash talk”, it clearly went way past that, culminating in the events off the field at tea. It also seemed to last through the best part of the session, which coincided with Australia bowling badly and SA batting really well.

      Surely rocket scientists like Boof and Warner should be able ti figure it out; talking crap all the time rarely works for this level of batsman and is not a good look.

      Play with passion by all means, but cut the chat and focus on the cricket.

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2018 @ 11:16am
        Will Knight said | March 7th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        Yeah schoolyard trash talk was meant to highlight the intellect level, but you’re right – it was, hopefully, more bitter than an average playground squabble. And I agree, it’s a risky business pursuing sledging through a session or a long innings. I guess the mentality is once you start, you can’t then go silent because that would be an admission that it hasn’t worked.
        I actually wouldn’t like to see banter taken out of the game. It gives it a bit of spice. But as always, stay in the boundaries of decency.

    • March 7th 2018 @ 8:40am
      Me said | March 7th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      Thanks Will. It is surprising to me that the crowds have been so low as I thought SA would regard Aus as their old enemy as we do Eng and turn up. Maybe it’s because they have already had a great Test series, many ODIs and T20Is against India and as this series is now into rugby season, the SA fans must have bigger fish to fry.

      • March 7th 2018 @ 10:31am
        ozinsa said | March 7th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        They have never had great crowds for test matches. I went to the first day of the last series there at Centurion. Coming off the Johnson Ashes and 1v2 there were less than 5000 (I think less than 3000) spectators on a perfect day. With ticket prices under $10.

        I also went to the last day of the Joburg test when Cummins won MoM on debut and there would have been <2000.

        You’ll get 10-15k to marquee games on a perfect Saturday but otherwise forget it.

        • Columnist

          March 7th 2018 @ 11:24am
          Will Knight said | March 7th 2018 @ 11:24am | ! Report

          Yep fair enough ozina. Geez I woulda loved to have seen those two Tests you mentioned! A shame given the quality of the teams. I thought first Test was a cracker and I’m revved for the rest of the series. But a buzz around the ground coming through my TV would naturally add to it 🙂

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2018 @ 11:22am
        Will Knight said | March 7th 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        Yep agreed. Our summer Test crowds are healthy, and it’s due in a large way to the schedule being over the school holidays-Christmas-NY stretch. Nonetheless, play a four-Test series against South Africa in Australia in March and I reckon the crowds would still be solid. 20,000 I’d say for weekend day’s play in Sydney and Melbourne for a start.
        Yeah, perhaps the South Africans have moved on to Super Rugby after a long multi-format series against India. March cricket tricky. I’d imagine the crowds will be down in New Zealand too for the two Tests against England. But like South Africa, I think Test cricket has been diving for a while with the Kiwis…

        • Roar Rookie

          March 7th 2018 @ 1:30pm
          Pedro The Fisherman said | March 7th 2018 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

          I attended 2 tests in NZ a couple of years back (Wellington and Christchurch – Australia v NZ) and tickets were very difficult to buy (in fact if I hadn’t bought tickets before I went I wouldn’t have got them when I arrived).

        • March 7th 2018 @ 9:09pm
          Chris said | March 7th 2018 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

          I am not sure if test cricket is dieing in SA, there is a lot of interest in the series, it’s simply the case that that interest is not translating to crowds and Durban is probably the worst venue Ito crowds.

    • Roar Guru

      March 7th 2018 @ 8:29pm
      Corne Van Vuuren said | March 7th 2018 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

      I wonder what Warner’s reaction will be if de Kock asks him “how’s your wife” just before Warner recieves his first ball ?

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