THERE is plenty of choice for cricket’s armchair viewers at the moment, apart from the real-life action provided by the Momentum One-Day Cup, which reached its mid-tournament break this weekend with the Cobras enjoying an imposing five-point lead at the top of the log.

Crowds have been thin on the ground but that is not a reflection of the quality of the competition — more, perhaps, because the Proteas are in New Zealand and the Currie Cup was reaching its climax, both of which provided attractive alternative viewing, especially for insomniacs or the self-employed during the week.

Australia’s huge defeat to Pakistan in Dubai was a cogent reminder of how difficult it is to win against skilled opponents in helpful conditions and a familiar environment. SA’s shared series in the United Arab Emirates a year ago was an achievement not fully appreciated by many supporters. The enormity of Graeme Smith’s double century in Dubai was undervalued by those watching from a distance.

India tackle Sri Lanka in the first of five hastily organised one-day internationals this week to fill the void left by West Indies, who abandoned their tour of India in the midst of a pay dispute with their employers that not only endangers the future of the game in the Caribbean but has embarrassed the entire international game.

Elsewhere, another contest was taking place that may have escaped the attention of all but the most committed South African sports lovers, but not of daily crowds of 12 000+ and millions more on TV in Asia. And it was a Test match, too. If only the world’s No 1 team could be guaranteed such attendance figures anywhere other than Newlands.

If Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are to survive at all, they will have to prove they are, at least, an appetising hors d’oeuvre before a major series. Persuading teams to visit them may require any manner of under-the-table deals. The big three could at least be honest and say whether or not these two nations are even welcome to scavenge for scraps.

The Bangladesh and Zimbabwe players may not be fully aware of the gravity of the situation regarding their futures in the international game, but they certainly made good use of the shop window provided to them with a contest of gripping excitement in the first of a three-match series at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Dhaka.

Not all the football teams in the English Premier League can be Chelsea or Manchester United (which will come as a relief to the smaller clubs in the case of the latter), but that does not mean they should not be there. Stoke, Hull, Burnley … they provide working-class honesty, some grit in the eye and the occasional upset.

When India’s Board of Control for Cricket in India persuaded the boards of England and Australia to join them in a take-over of all the meaningful administrative power and revenue generation in the world game, they ripped up the Future Tours Programme which, theoretically at least, promised some fixtures for the two minnows of the world game. Now they have nothing guaranteed beyond a couple of tours they were given in order to sign on the dotted line in March this year.

From now on, they will be forced to beg, bribe or pay for the other eight teams to play them. While the "big three" play each other in increasingly regular and inflated series, and SA hang on by virtue of their status on the field, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies (if they exist much longer) will be happy just to keep their heads above water.

If Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are to survive at all, they will have to prove they are, at least, an appetising hors d’oeuvre before a major series. Persuading teams to visit them may require any manner of under-the-table deals. The big three could at least be honest and say whether or not these two nations are even welcome to scavenge for scraps.

It was a splendid contest with the home side prevailing by just three wickets yesterday, full of determination and drama, elation and suspense. It was played by real people with real stories of triumph against the odds and success in adversity, not by insignificant nobodies as the self-important big boys prefer to imagine.

It was also a reminder that the experience could be denied them in the very near future, forever. It was also yet another reminder that, while other sports expand to prosper for the majority, cricket is shrinking to do so for the minority.

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