Let’s call it what it was: The Great English Bio-Bubble Con

While the T20 series against England was able to go ahead, the three-match ODI series was cancelled without a ball being bowled. Picture: Getty Images

But when England decided they could no longer stand the anxiety and uncertainty of bubble life they shifted the blame on to their hosts.

Steenberg Golf Club is undoubtedly a magnificent course nestled in the Constantia Valley below Table Mountain, but it is also the epicentre of the Great English Bio-Bubble Con.

It has now been revealed by informed sources that the England cricket team played four rounds of golf at Steenberg alone while the poor dears were locked up in their bio-secure bubble at the luxurious Vineyard Hotel about 10km north of the exclusive Peter Matkovitch-designed championship course in idyllic surroundings.

Four other courses in the Western Cape were also visited, while the Proteas were restricted to just one round for a small group at Steenberg.

It was a condition laid down by the English that they be allowed to play golf; nobody realised, however, that playing golf was seemingly more important to them than their actual job of playing cricket.

But I have no beef with them playing golf, it has long been the sport favoured by cricketers through the ages.

Living in a bio-bubble also cannot be easy for most people and England’s cricketers have done it for much of the year, so I do have some sympathy for them.

But at their own request, the protocols in South Africa were far more lenient than the ones in place for them back home during the austral winter.

But when England decided they could no longer stand the anxiety and uncertainty of bubble life – especially with three Proteas and two Vineyard Hotel staff having tested positive for Covid – they shifted the blame on to their hosts, insinuating that the breaches in the bubble were all due to incompetence on the part of the South Africans.

England’s two Covid cases were later (conveniently once the ODI series had been called off) found to be false positives by their independent medical examiners.

But it was the players themselves, some with lucrative Big Bash contracts in Australia on their minds, others just wanting to go home, who forced the issue.

Player power won the day and besides, there’s only so much golf one can play before that gets boring as well.

So while England packed their bags for home, South African cricket was left with considerable reputational damage and the risk of crippling financial losses as Sri Lanka’s tour here for two Tests over the festive season was almost called off.

A high-profile tour by Australia is still in doubt and Pakistan could also be concerned about coming here early next year.

Kudos to the Sri Lankan authorities though for agreeing that their team only needs to quarantine for three days upon their return to the island for their Test series against England, which starts seven days after the second Test against the Proteas at the Wanderers is scheduled to end.

England’s administrators have, however, been understanding of the dirty pulled by their players and have offered Cricket South Africa much support in sorting out the mess left behind.

Another disappointment for me this week has been the revelations over the behaviour of Omphile Ramela on the CSA interim board.

I have long been a cheerleader for the former president of the players’ association, knowing him to be a man of principle and a voice for those who feel downtrodden in the game.

But it seems principle has become dictatorial and anti-democratic tendencies and he has now aligned himself with the cause of suspended company secretary Welsh Gwaza, a fiend who had weaseled his way into a position of tremendous power within CSA with poisonous intent.

The interim board has now publicly alleged that Gwaza colluded with Bowmans Gilfillan, his former employers, to sanitise himself from the findings of the Fundudzi Report.

Gwaza’s great ally, Xolani Vonya, has also been recused from the board and that should be cheered.

As interim board chair Zak Yacoob poined out, they are dealing with several people who will do just about anything to stop the complete clean-up of cricket.

Ken Borland

Ken Borland.

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