Grinners ... South Africa's cricket side celebrate their 2008 Boxing Day Test win. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
CHANNEL Nine says South Africa's decision to not tour over the Christmas and New Year period is less than ideal, declaring the marquee cricket series of the season should be held in the peak of summer.
South Africa's five series in Australia since returning to international cricket post apartheid had featured Tests on two of the sport's grandest occasions - Boxing Day in Melbourne and the New Year's Day clash in Sydney. But, because its home season clashes with the Australian summer and Cricket Australia refuses to reciprocate, Cricket South Africa has insisted on hosting its own Test, beginning on Boxing Day.
However, some Australian officials are gobsmacked CSA has scheduled a Twenty20 clash against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth on Boxing Day this year, a move that has riled its own supporters and forced CSA into an embarrassing backdown and pledge to host a Test next summer.
''Not having a Boxing Day Test this year is a one-off and will not be repeated next year,'' CSA spokesman, Michael Owen-Smith, said.
Former CSA chief executive, Gerald Majola, had been the force behind the decision to snub the MCG and SCG Tests but he was sacked yesterday after an investigation found he had pocketed unsanctioned bonuses worth $190,000 linked to international tournaments in 2009.
The Proteas will play three Tests in Australia, beginning November 9 at the Gabba - their first in Brisbane for nearly 50 years - with Adelaide and Perth the other venues. They will return home before Christmas. Sri Lanka, instead, will be in Australia for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests.
Nine's executive producer of cricket, Brad McNamara, said his network would have preferred the battle between the Proteas, the world's No. 1 ranked Test team, and the No. 3-ranked Australia to be staged over the Christmas and New Year period when more people were on holidays.
''It's always been difficult for South Africa basically having the same season as us,'' he said yesterday. ''We knew this was going to happen.
''Not to disparage Sri Lanka, but the battle for the No. 1 Test ranking would have suited everyone better beginning Boxing Day than when it is. Generally, Boxing Day is acknowledged as our biggest day of the year.''
The Proteas were compensated by CA in the years they toured over the Christmas period. They have argued Australia should reciprocate and tour South Africa at Christmas but CA has maintained it is not possible as the Sydney and Melbourne Tests remain strong - and pivotal - in terms of supporter and commercial support, far more than if the matches were staged in South Africa.
''Boxing Day at the MCG is an important part of the annual Australian cricket calendar,'' CA spokesman, Peter Young, said.
Owen-Smith said Australia's reluctance to tour South Africa over Christmas meant his board had little choice. ''As we understand it, Cricket Australia has a contract with Channel Nine to play at home during the December and January period,'' he said. ''While they are unable to come to SA for festive-season Test matches, we cannot afford to continue giving up the revenue we lose if Australia are not going to reciprocate.''