The city is unique and should be dishing up a Boxing Day cricket treat.
If it weren’t for John Vorster’s administration and their hard-headed response to Basil D’Oliveira’s selection to the 1968 English touring team, South Africa could have established its own Boxing Day tradition by now.
Before the advent of Kerry Packer and their eventual monopolising of the festive season, even Australia were December tourists to South Africa.
Would-haves and should-haves do not count, though, as we can only recount the better part of our history from 1992.
What South African administrators and fans alike still need to do is give South Africa’s Boxing Day test a unique feel. Firstly, though, a
standard venue is required and
even though Durban is now the favoured haunt, this has not always been the case.
The test was first given to Port Elizabeth when India were the tourists in 1992, with Durban getting their first post-Christmas treat when the Kiwis visited in 1994. It was only in 1996 that Durban was officially the anointed heir to the Boxing Day throne.
History lesson aside, Durban will never be like Melbourne, which has its own character and even occupies a special place in South African cricketing history.
What Durban needs to do is embrace its different heritages and make sure its Boxing Day test stands out somehow.
Outside of Cape Town, Durban has the most cosmopolitan population in South Africa, which makes it a bit of a home away from home for the Proteas, which is no bad thing. After witnessing South Africa play Pakistan in an Edgbaston that resembled the National Stadium in Karachi, Durban can match that.
The priority for KwaZulu-Natal cricket’s CEO Jesse Chellan and his marketing team is, of course, to ensure they get fans into the ground and let them be quintessential Durban folk.
Nothing turns fans away from stadiums more than asking them to conform to certain “atmospheres”.
Having been to Lord’s in my recent trip to the UK, the ground’s revered but snotty atmosphere will not find a place in the heat of Durban’s summer.
It is asking too much of festive fans to rock up to Kingsmead in bacon and egg ties, complete with shirts and trousers. As conservative as South African society may be, they don’t do the straitjacket thing very well.
Filling the ground is a challenge few seem to have an answer for, as Durban is notorious for displaying its green and white seats during test matches.
It is a damning indictment of the city’s tourism pull, which is at its strongest in the festive season.
Not having a Boxing Day test last year must have been a lesson Chellan and his team heeded, and they have strong competition in the Eastern Cape.
The last time Port Elizabeth hosted a Boxing Day test in 2007, it was well received, though it ended in an almost customary South African defeat to the West Indies.
Like Durban, Port Elizabeth and its lovely but rustic St George’s Park is a holiday destination with great beaches and a timeless ground.
Unlike Durban, Melbourne has no rival. So Durban will have to do some real thinking about how to establish itself as a real test venue.
Powered by WPeMatico