South Africa's turn for a big night out
Barbados - Forget Pedalogate; South Africa are the ones trying to play down a drinking controversy as they go into Tuesday’s must-win game against England.
Andrew Flintoff was stripped of the England vice-captaincy and banned for a game after a late-night drinking binge in St Lucia early in the World Cup.
This time it is South Africa captain Graeme Smith trying to defend his actions as one of a group of players on Saturday night, after the defeat to New Zealand in Grenada.
A South African fan called a Johannesburg radio station to complain a group of players were out until 4am, claiming they were “highly intoxicated”.
Officials have already said the case is closed but if South Africa under-perform against England, a sports-mad public at home are unlikely to let it lie.
Smith played the whole issue down, saying: “There probably were guys who had a few drinks. After a game if a couple of guys want to go out and blow off some steam I have no issue with it.
“It’s a long tournament, there’s a lot of pressure and the guys will be prepared [for the England game].
“We have drinking rules and if guys have pushed the limit that will be discussed and dealt with.”
Pushed on the nature of those rules, Smith said: “Two days before a game, really calm down.”
Several Proteas were spotted in the pubs and clubs of St Lawrence Gap on Barbados’ south coast on Sunday night, after 1am. Opinions were mixed on whether they were behaving calmly or not.
Comically, Smith almost managed to suggest it was difficult to fit drinking sessions in around games, saying: “It’s tough at the moment with the schedules.”
Then he added: “I think probably we’ve been the quietest team at this World Cup, because of where we’ve been based.”
If it was a reference to their difficult fortnight in Guyana at the start of the Super 8, they didn’t find the right places.
These late-night sessions are far from unique. In the week following Pedalogate, two players from opposing sides (neither one England, before you fret) were out in the same bar where Flintoff’s binge began.
Around 34 hours later, Player A took 22 runs off Player B’s second over. Perhaps one player handles his booze better than the other. More likely, it had little bearing.
These are professional, international sportsmen, though. Surely they should be able to make a judgement on when it is safe to push the boat out. Surely.