Mark Keohane, for ‘Keo’s Corner’ in the Cape Times and IOL Sport
Those English national squad ODI cricketers, who have been in South Africa for the past month for the T20s and preparing for the ODI’s in the past week did cricket in this country a major disservice.
They used Covid to their advantage to get out of the country because 12 of the players needed to ensure they got to Australia in the next week unscathed to play in the lucrative Big Bash T20.
They blamed feeling mentally fragile, psychologically shot, in fear of their health and even went as far as to claim their plush hotel, the popular Vineyard in Newlands, was not up to bio-bubble standards.
If this was not enough of a justification in their eyes, they claimed they feared for the situation when they witnessed the Proteas squad enjoying a squad braai.
How safe were they really? Was the question they asked.
These profound questions weren’t being asked when England’s powerful T20 squad were pounding the Proteas into submission. In fact, Cape Town (and Newlands and Paarl in particular) were the places to be, when England’s cricketers were asserting their dominance of South Africa in a 3-0 series win.
Then two hotel staff tested positive for an infection, which can happen. Then two English players tested positive, but it was a false positive, as so often happens. Just a day later both players were cleared, with the follow up Tests showing a negative response.
The English players were having none of it. They just wanted out of Cape Town, despite their management’s reassurance that it was safe to complete the three-match ODI series.
Would these players have been so insistent if they were going back to Tier Three lockdown in a wet and cold English December?
That question doesn’t need an answer because it wasn’t one asked for an answer.
My tone when typing this was filled with sarcasm and this week, I’ve had a particular distaste for those English cricketers who professed such concern for their own health but had no issue in getting on plane straight to Australia to play in the Big Bash.
There is no guarantee anywhere in the world that any bio-bubble is bullet proof.
Had the situation been reversed and it was South Africa’s cricketers who simply wanted out of England because of a desire to get to Australia for a bigger pay day, there would be outrage in the Queen’s country.
Cricket South Africa can ill-afford cancellations and the global cricketing community can even less afford series’ to be cancelled because a player or an individual produces a positive test or mentally feels vulnerable.
It would be easy to scream to the England cricketers: ‘Toughen the F up.’
But it would be wrong because there was nothing soft or weak about their decision not to play. They simply wanted to go to a destination with better short-term reward.
The consequence is that Sri Lanka now are in a spin and are considering not touring South Africa.
At a time when calm has to conquer chaos when it comes to information about Covid, the world can’t simply want to shut down every time there is a bit of fear mongering or paranoia.
Every country in the world has to negotiate to currently live with the presence of Covid, but life – and by extension sport – has to live on.
There is no rationale to how every government is dealing with sport and Covid-related restrictions.
Social distancing is the issue, but in this country, as one example, restaurants are all filled. Yet sports stadiums, with a capacity of 50 000, are not allowed to accommodate 5000 people, seated at opposite ends of the ground, far away from each other?
Just like England’s quick-fire exit out of Cape Town and South Africa, the decision not to allow small amounts of fans into sporting stadiums in South Africa, has to be questioned and challenged.