The Cricket World Cup is on at the moment. Anyone reading in countries that don’t play cricket (Denmark, USA, England etc.) may have missed this fact, but here in South Africa, no-one will talk about anything but “that match” tomorrow. “That match” is the eagerly awaited semi-final between everyone’s long-standing tournament favourites, Australia and South Africa’s tournament favourites… er… South Africa.
The rivalry in this particular game has been upped somewhat by South Africa’s audacious snatching of the world number one spot from the Aussies just before the tournament started (although they have since relented and given it back by losing to… er… Australia). That and the still-fresh memories of the “greatest game ever” in Jo’burg in 2006, when Australia smashed 434 – a new world record score – only for South Africa to come out (not like that) (well, maybe Andre Nel) and score 438; beating them with one wicket and 1 ball remaining. That’s gotta hurt.
It’s difficult to desribe the hype surrounding the game here, which even the most hardened South African fans are admitting Australia should win. Think of England in the (Football) World Cup final or the USA actually winning the war in Iraq.
There are South African flags everywhere – some of them even being flown the correct way up*. The back page of the local newspaper was filled entirely with SMS’s of support for the team, which they’ll never read as they’re playing cricket over in the Caribbean. My football team is annoyed to have to be taking time out from the big game to play some poxy soccer match. Strange behaviour indeed.
This, of course is a far cry from the dark old days of South African cricket. Back then, when a stuttering South Africa side lost by 67 runs to minnows Bangladesh, things were very different. In those days, newspapers slated the team’s terrible performance, radio DJ’s declared themselves “ashamed to be South African” and the locals wanted the head of the captain, the coach and the selectors removed and publicly displayed next the the Ben Schoeman highway in Gauteng.
What a difference two weeks can make, huh?
* That’s with the blue at the bottom, in case you’re struggling.