The Leading Edge

Only in SA do cricketers speak truth to media

06 January 2019 - 00:00 By TELFORD VICE

Have I told you lately, SA, that I love you? Not for winning more than you lose. Truth is, I don't care who wins or loses as long as they do it quickly - at worst before deadline, at best before restaurant kitchens close.
And nothing is as miserable as a reporter who is detained in the press box until after the pubs close. It happens: journalists work long hours after the last ball is bowled.
Besides, defeats usually make for more compelling stories than victories. Which do you remember more clearly, SA surging to the top of the Test rankings by beating England at Lord's in 2012, or them crashing out of the 2015 World Cup by losing to New Zealand at Eden Park?
Yup, me too.
Here's why I count myself luckier than most in my profession to do much of my reporting on SA's team rather than others.
"As a team and as a leadership group it's about always being composed, no matter what. To look calm when the storm is there or when it's not."
That was Faf du Plessis the other day, talking about how the Australians are getting on post the ball-tampering scandal.
Here's Dean Elgar on the faith he had in Centurion's crowd to turn up for the first Test against Pakistan, never mind that it was played at a time of year when tumbleweeds outnumber trucks on the N1: "In Pretoria people might not have money to go away on holiday but they definitely have money for beer."
So, what's this all about? That in no other cricketing country would a player, much less as guarded a figure as a captain, throw talk of calm and storms into the easily twistable context of a news conference.
And that only in SA would a player be happy to be quoted saying, more or less, that the citizenry of a particular place drink too much and travel too little.
It's lines like those that keep people like me from going quietly crazy with the banality of having to take seriously irrelevancies like who should bat at no 4. Here's my take, for now and forever more: I bloody well don't give a damn. Shut up and wait for the second wicket to fall and see who walks out.
SA haven't been much good at winning the World Cup on the field, but put them behind the microphones and they're champions every time.
Most of them, that is.
Du Plessis is a particular delight, and that despite the fact that almost all of his interaction with the media is conducted in his second language.
So it's perversely unfair that he is often asked to provide answers in Afrikaans to questions asked in English.
Also unfairly, but in a better sense for Du Plessis, the invariably articulate and intelligent way he expresses his insights no doubt stops reporters criticising him for decisions that would have them baying for the heads of less engaging captains. Not that Du Plessis gets too much wrong on the field.
Elgar is another hit, as much for his almost cartoon toughness as for his habit of lapsing into a dialect that's neither English nor Afrikaans but is perhaps best described as a particular shade of Welkom, his hometown.
But wait. There's more. Temba Bavuma gobsmacked India's media in Delhi in 2015 when he was asked about batting amid the madness that Virat Kohli's men create on the field: "They're known for their theatre around the bat."
Gotta love that. I don't say it enough: thanks okes.

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