Sydney Classics Tour of S Africa 2016
When organising an overseas tour to a country that one has never been to before there are so many unknowns.
Is the country safe? What happens if we have a lot of rain? Will the cricket be up to expectations? Will the trips organized for days off be disappointing?
On top of this there are the usual concerns of will the touring party get on with each other and will the Partners be bored?
With all the usual trepidations of a Manager, on the 21 Feb 2016 we set off to Johannesburg.
On arrival in Johannesburg we were taken by bus to the Pilansberg Safari Park where we stayed for 3 days. Having the Safari before we got into the business of playing cricket enabled the touring squad to bond together.
The 3 Safari trips that we went on exceeded all expectations. Seeing so many animals up close was nothing short of spectacular. Details of these trips are provided elsewhere in the report but suffice it to say that we all went away with incredible memories to last us a lifetime.
We then flew down to Cape Town. This is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. From the centre there is always the spectacular Table Mountain dominating the skyline. Elsewhere there are a number of other mountain ranges to admire. One would be hard pressed to find a place without a great view.
Our hotel was comfortable and well-situated near the Waterfront, a tourist area. We were to be there for 13 days. Having a stable base was important as too much moving is disruptive and tiring.
The cricket started in earnest. Our first match was against the Cape Town club. We started very positively and won a very close game. Our next game was a tie and we were full of optimism. Unfortunately we were to lose the next 6 games in Cape Town. The recurring theme was the number of youngsters that played against us (mostly in their 30’s). Aged cricket has not developed in S Africa so many teams needed the younger players to make up the numbers (and probably to beat us!).
We were competitive in most games and surprised a number of teams as to how well a group of 50 and 60 year olds can play. Interestingly the strongest side that we played was a Muslim side, the only one genuinely made up of over 50’s but most of which had played Provincial level.
On days off there were great tours to Table Mountain and the Peninsula, Stellenbosch (the wine growing area) and to Robbin Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
What a beautiful place! We stayed in the Conrad Pezula, a 6 star Resort Hotel and were completely spoilt. Our 2 matches against Knysna opposition were managed by Keith Critchley, who organises different sporting events in Knysna and is a cricket tragic.
The hosting was exceptional. On our evening of arrival we were all thrilled to be introduced to Barry Richards and renowned umpire Rudi Koertzen.
We played 2 matches there. The first was the hardest when they included 2 ex Zimbabwe internationals, including one who played as recent as 2014. We lost this one but ran them close. The second one provided an excellent victory. I think we were all disappointed to leave such a wonderful place.
We stayed in a hotel in Umhlanga, north of Durban. Durban has a climate similar to Brisbane, so obviously warm with some humidity. We lost our second of 3 matches due to rain (thus the Aussies broke a long drought in Durban).
However our match at Maritzburg College against the Headmaster’s XI was a highlight. This was the same oval that England played their warm up game just before the Test Matches. We successfully chased down a score of 220 in a thrilling game in which everyone performed well.
On our day off we had a meal in a restaurant run by relatives of Bushy and Raj Pillay. The food was exceptional.
It is a shame that aged cricket has not been developed in S Africa. There are a good number of people that would love to part of this. It needs an organizer and should start with the over 40’s. It appears that when a player reaches @ 40 they give it away and then just eat and drink. They were very envious of our structure and our body shapes!
So did we overcome all my trepidations. The answer is a big YES.
The cricket was always enjoyable even if played against younger opposition. Often they had to resort to the youngsters to beat us. We played on some fantastic grounds and the hosting was nothing short of exceptional.
The team gelled very quickly and the Partners immediately felt part of the group. They watched some of our matches and other days went off and did their own thing, joining us for dinner after the match.
We had a wonderful group of people and they were a joy to manage. A special thank you to:
Paul Adams, who as vice-captain provided many words of wisdom:
Terry Kerslake, for standing in every match as an umpire (including with Rudi Koertzen) and acting as the tour photographer with his wonderful wife Kate
Ken Doughty, for writing some of the match reports and sharing with us his Travel Logs
Peter Harrison, for also writing match reports, collating the match statistics and photographs and putting together this report as a special record of an amazing 4 weeks
There were many other memorable moments but they will have to fall under the category of ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’.
I have been asked when is the next tour and where to. I am thinking about this and will let you know in the coming months.
Thanks again to all who toured who made it so special for me and my wife, Mei Lai.