In the first of a new series of guest posts from both new and established bloggers, a close South African friend talks about supporting her team from afar – enjoy...
At the time of writing we are two tests down in a three test series between the Proteas and the Black Caps in New Zealand, and I’m watching the weather forecast for Wellington with increasing foreboding ahead of the third test.
Living in a country different to the one where your loyalties lay means doing what you can to get your fix of your favourite team playing your favourite sport. Weather interruptions are extremely unwelcome; especially when I’m unsure where my next South African cricket fix will come from.
|Celebrating a victory against the Black Caps at Lord's|
A bane of my otherwise lovely existence in Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, is that passion for cricket here is nowhere near that which rugby commands and so Sky Television does not place a great importance on airing international cricket when New Zealand aren’t involved, particularly in the purer form of the game.
I am often asked why I continue to support the Proteas when I have lived outside of South Africa for 11 years now, especially when I am so starved of the ability to watch them play unless they’re touring Australia or playing in New Zealand. Whenever I am asked this question I know immediately that the enquirer lacks that true passion or they’d already know the answer.
It's simple - when you have spent so much of your life following something, regardless of what it is, it becomes a part of your make up, a part of who you are. When so much of your time has been spent riding the waves of ecstasy when the result swings your way (the '434 game'), or wallowing in the depths of despair when they don’t (the ‘99 World Cup (CWC) semi-final; indeed, every World Cup!), it’s utterly impossible to simply cease your support like you’d amputate a diseased limb.
When you have safety in numbers it is easy to proclaim your love for your team. It is a true supporter that can sit alone amongst an opposition crowd year after year yet still wear their heart on their sleeve, their team’s emblem on their chest and their nations flag tied around their neck as a cape. One might argue that being a proud South African living in New Zealand you’re never really that lonely (especially in the North Shore) but I am still surrounded by New Zealanders who often don’t quite understand my passion.
My love affair with cricket, and the Proteas in particular, began when I was a young girl living in sunny South Africa. In an era where Hansie was a household name, White Lightning stunned batsmen worldwide and Jonty Rhodes amazed with his acrobatic antics in the field, it was easy to fall in love when my Dad sat me down and patiently explained the rules to me. I was hooked! From staying up five nights in a row to watch our men in white battle it out in the sub- continent, to skipping school here and there to enjoy an ODI – those were the days! It wasn’t long before the walls of my room were covered by posters of my favourite players - my door was reserved only for my favourites. Klusener, Donald, Pollock, Kirsten and Boucher guarded the entrance to my room – a shrine to the Proteas!
When I was 13 my father, like so many other South Africans, decided to search for greener pastures and a safer haven for his family. Before I knew it New Zealand became my new home. I was distraught when I discovered I couldn’t watch my team ply their trade live on TV here. To console me my father gifted me an overseas subscription to my favourite publication, the South African Cricket Action Magazine, for a year. It wasn’t quite live cricket but at least I could keep in touch.
Once my subscription expired the only way I could follow the Proteas became the internet - I fell in love with Cricinfo. When South Africa did tour New Zealand or Australia I’d watch every minute of every game, fuming when school got in the way in those days before MySky would allow me to record the game so I could watch it later. I’d eagerly anticipate Cricket World Cup tournaments knowing that I’d get a rare chance to watch the world of cricket come together and battle it out. Unfortunately, South Africa’s history at World Cups has left me bitterly disappointed.
A few years later I ventured out into the world on my big OE. After spending time in South America and Europe, I settled in London for a year and a half. As the only South African in a house I shared with seven other people, I was lucky to live with an Australian bloke who was as passionate about his cricket as I was. We were treated to some of the best test cricket between our two nations either of us had ever seen. When the series returned to Australia we spent five nights in a row staying awake, more often than not utterly captivated. When one would fall asleep the other would make coffee. Taking the number one test ranking for the first time, and stealing it from Australia of all teams, was as sweet as anything I’d ever tasted. The stand out for me was the test in Perth. Requiring 414 to win I watched the extremely talented AB de Villiers steer South Africa to the second highest successful second innings run chase in test cricket history, supported by a beautiful knock by debutant JP Duminy. The future of South African cricket looked as bright as the African sun!
Another highlight of my time in London was when a close friend gifted me a ticket to see South Africa take on New Zealand at the T20 World Cup at the hallowed home of cricket – Lord’s! Though we won I spent most of the match in a state of panic as South Africa set the Kiwis a very average total of 128 runs. When some excellent bowling by the Proteas managed to restrict New Zealand to 127 I was giddy with relief.
Upon my return to New Zealand later in 2009, I was again starved of my fix of South African Cricket, apart from the disappointment of the 2011 Cricket World Cup which is a time in my life I’d rather forget! In that quarter-final against New Zealand my relationship with Sky Television NZ became even less rosy. Before the match, after airing the New Zealand national anthem, they decided that it would be a better idea to air the pre-match conversation between New Zealand commentators (including Mark Richardson) than to show South African fans the respect they deserve by airing our national anthem. I’ve never been one to write letters of complaint to broadcasters but in this case I couldn’t help myself. Regardless of the result I was bitterly disappointed at being robbed of the opportunity to sing along, with my hand on my heart, while watching my heroes bellow out their nation’s song with pride. To Sky’s credit the response I got was an honest apology.
Nowadays I find it a lot easier to get my fix and yes, I am as addicted as ever. It may be frowned upon but I am so grateful to the Indians for the live streams I can download from the internet. Even if it’s constantly interrupted by hilarious adverts it’s certainly better than not being able to watch it at all.
Cricinfo still provides me with live score updates and commentary, and in the beautiful age of the iPhone I even have an app which will let me know when wickets fall, or milestones are reached, while I’m out and about.
Even so, there really is nothing like being able to watch our beautiful game live. During the current South African tour to New Zealand I was lucky enough to go to Eden Park twice; once for a T20 match, the other for a ODI – both which we won.
As I sign off, for now, we are at stumps on day four of the last test match of the series. South Africa look poised for another victory with Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen starting their second innings confidently and with clear intent, though at this stage a draw or a New Zealand victory are still possible. I’m relieved that despite the amount of time we’ve lost in the match due to the weather that we might still get to see a result.
Throughout this tour, from its commencement in mid–February, I have watched the Proteas steadily improve all aspects of their game. I’ve seen our top batsmen all perform at one time or another, have watched what I believe is probably the strongest bowling attack South Africa has had for a very long time, and have been lucky enough to see a new rising star in Vernon Philander achieve his 50th test wicket in only 7 test matches.
And though I’m sad that aside from a one-off T20 match against India in Johannesburg to raise funds for the Jacques Kallis Scholarship Foundation, I’ll have to wait until July before we challenge England at home for their number one test ranking, I am satisfied. My team has shown steady improvement and are boasting a depth, and young talent pool, like I haven’t seen in years. I cannot really ask for more.
I’d love your feedback – post a comment below or tweet me @princessmaiken and tell me what you think. You never know, I might even be allowed back…
Maiken Kruger is a proud South African who calls New Zealand home. In her own words, she lives for cricket, rugby, mixed martial arts, music, cooking, baking, travelling and adventure! For those who regularly follow Donning the Whites she's the young lady (previously anonymous) referred to in Cricket's better half. You can follow her on Twitter @princessmaiken.