The Leading Edge
Latest test between Proteas and Pakistan is stale and unnecessary
In cricket, we play entire matches, sometimes more than one, that don't matter because the rubber is as dead as Monty Python's parrot, writes Telford Vice
There shouldn't have been a game of cricket at the Wanderers this week. Nothing so grand as a Test, anyway.
But here we are, pondering the particulars of the third Test between SA and Pakistan - the last gasp of a series that was decided a week ago at Newlands.
Events at the Wanderers, then, are stale news. Nothing to see there. Move on.
Tennis can't decide whether it's played using racquets or rackets, and despite showcasing female superstars, it is riddled with misogyny. But the Davis Cup dumped the dead rubber in 2011.
The jet-fuelled hamsters of Formula 1 stop stinking up the planet with their Godzilla-sized carbon footprint after one of them has taken the chequered flag.
But, in cricket, we play entire matches, sometimes more than one, that don't matter because the rubber is as dead as Monty Python's parrot.
As the exasperated pet shop customer, the brilliant John Cleese, explained: "'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket! 'E's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible! This is an ex-parrot!"
The Wanderers Test is that parrot.
Part of the problem is in the planning. When three of the first four days of another Wanderers Test - against New Zealand in December 2000 - were washed out, the suits begged the press to lunch in the Long Room to prevent at least some of a trawlerfull of smoked salmon from going to waste.
It was meant to be eaten by people who couldn't be bothered to turn up to watch a game going nowhere slowly. The press duly went: never mind smoked salmon, a Long Room lunch involves booze.
It was a strange game, indeed - Chris Scott and his ground staff won man-of-the-match.
Watching sport up close and personal is about more than seeing victory and defeat. It's also about drinking tasteless beer from squidgy plastic cups between bites of MSG-flavoured stuff that may or may not safely be called food while wedged into the cruel confines of a plastic seat, awkwardly angled on a grass bank, or in the bleachers hoping you don't end up with splinters in your backside.
There will be blazing sun. There will be bone-rattling cold. There will be rain. There will be wind. On the Highveld, there will be thunder and lightning; very, very frightening. Sometimes, there will be all of the above.
You will pay for these privileges. But only once you have gone through the frustration of finding a place to park your car, which will also cost you money.
Happily, there's more to the arena experience, and especially in an arena as driven by drama as the Wanderers.
Your mates will be there. Or you'll make new ones before the day's out. You will be part of something bigger than you or your old and new mates, something that seems intangible but is more real than the unforgiving edge of your plastic seat.
You may see something that makes you marvel at what humans can do. You may see nothing you haven't forgotten once you've shambled out the gate.
But you will have been there, sometimes only to help keep a dead parrot alive, and bless you for that...