DURBAN – South Africa have won just one out of their last nine Test matches in Durban.
In that time, administrators and promoters have tried just about everything (within moral grounds) to entice a crowd. It’s sad.
Stronger language is probably appropriate, but that culture of shrugging shoulders and turning on the TV, instead of turning up, may well cost the city even more.
A former fortress has become a hoodoo ground, a place that feels more and more unfamiliar.
There are several reasons, on and off the field, that can be pointed towards as contributors to this bizarre micro-climate that visits a team that wins a lot on home soil.
If the Proteas lose at the Wanderers, they usually bounce back in the next game, and set that straight. The same goes for Newlands. They seemingly don’t lose at Centurion, which is one of several reasons why the Boxing Day Test has relocated from Sharks-country to Bulls territory.
It is a big problem, far bigger than the loss to a stunning Sri Lankan fightback in the opening match of the two-Test series.
There appears to be a deeper-lying issue about Durban now, and the players might well have slipped into a place where they would rather not play here – if given the choice.
“We’ve got a terrible record here. We played Pakistan in Joburg, Pretoria and Cape Town – which is all the right places where you want to play sub-continent teams,” skipper Faf du Plessis pointed out.
The problem with leaning heavily on the “Big Three” venues in SA in the prime of the summer, is that rotation dictates that a second series in the season goes to other, less fancied grounds and cities.
Durban and Port Elizabeth are now suckling on the hind for fixtures, thanks to a combination of poor crowds, slow pitches and a Proteas penchant for cut and thrust cricket.
“What happens is you have to take Test cricket all around the country, and what’s left is the two slower pitches. In a perfect world you would want to split it up a bit, but we still have to be a team that is adaptable enough to beat a team like Sri Lanka in our home conditions – even if we’re playing on a piece of pudding,” Du Plessis added.
“We can’t point any fingers. We’ll look at the areas where we need to improve.”
The loss at Kingsmead was not just because it happened to be in Durban, of course. But, the location for the upset didn’t help. Sri Lanka carried on their merry way, no local mob turning against them and reminding them that they were the visiting team.
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Crowds, in large numbers, play their part in sport. 10 000 people shouting for SA, in those final, crazy minutes on Saturday, might not have made a difference.
But, it might have reminded the players and the suits that top quality fare is worth maintaining in Durban.
Instead, there was another reminder why SA prefer the Highveld and the mountain. On and off the field.
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