A month later and I am still angry!
I have enjoyed a love affair with the sport of cricket since I was ten years old. For forty years I have been a fixture on the stands of the Wanderers and I am one of the few people that will attend all five days of a test match.
That love affair officially ended on the 18th December 2013. This was the first day of the first test, South Africa versus India. Cricket fans will know that this was the big one; the heavyweight championship fight between the two top teams in world cricket. The world number one playing the world champions; it was going to be epic!
To make things even better for me, I received a call from Kevin, my childhood best friend who had emigrated to Australia 12 years before. He suggested that we spend the next day together at The Wanderers as we had throughout our carefree childhood. As it was quite late in the day, I wasn’t able to pre-book tickets, but I knew that we could always buy them at the gate as the ground is big and the hard core fans are few. We agreed to meet at the ground at 10am for the 10.30 start.
I knew that I was in trouble when, halfway down Corlett Drive, I could see a queue a hundred metres long and it was barely moving. Ten thirty came and went and we could hear the cheers from the other side of the impenetrable gate. Six ticket windows open out of ten for the biggest game of the season. Not an official to be seen, customer service be damned!
After an hour of queuing I was second in the queue. I heard a roar go up as Dale Steyn captured the first Indian wicket. Missed it!
By now the well behaved middle-class crowd was growing increasingly frustrated and surprisingly vocal. We were also becoming united in our anger. The straw that broke the poor old camel’s back was when the ticket seller informed us that they were only selling tickets for the grass or for the Eastern Open Stand which allowed you to get free third degree sunburn. Tickets were not available for the far more desirable Northern or Southern Pavilions.
“Why not?” we demanded
“They should have told you” he replied
“It makes no sense!” we implored
After a heated five minute exchange and the threat of calling “security” to quell the unlikeliest civic rebellion of all time. We stood our ground. We also had technology on our side. With one glance at my Walka; I could see that the stands were practically empty. It soon emerged that the problem was a broken printer and the sales staff could just not be bothered to use a different printer. Not a manager or an official to be seen.
In a rare display of unity, we all decided not to move until they let us buy tickets in our preferred stands. Sensing that it may make more sense to help us than to fight us, the reluctant Lodge Security staff finally relented and did what they were employed to do in the first place. Five minutes later tickets were printed in the adjacent office and sold to us.
At 11.25 we walked into the stadium in time to hear the second wicket fall before we found our seats. It was at that point that I saw Kevin say a little prayer of thanks that he chose to leave this mad place all those years ago.
I am no longer surprised to see the off-field troubles that plague cricket in this country and I can only see more bad times ahead. We may be top ranked team in the world at the moment but in future we will see even more South Africans padding up to play for England, or New Zealand, or heaven forbid, Australia.
Who would put their futures in the hands of people who run their biggest event of the year like this?
I cannot promise that my anger will stop me from ever going back to my beloved Wanderers to watch the game that I love; but I now fully understand why Australia, India and England believe that the game of cricket will be better off without South Africa.