I write this with a very heavy heart but one that has come to the conclusion that the best place to watch Cricket is simply, England.
I am one who has been watching the game for more than twenty years and has not missed a Test Match at Newlands since 1992. We all know Newlands is a beautiful ground but watching cricket in England is a superior experience, at least for me.
In England, you are made to feel as though you are part of the furniture whether you are a member of a county as I was at Worcestershire from 1998 to 2002, or if you are just a visitor for the first or hundredth time at a Test Match ground.
Once I was a member of Worcestershire Cricket Club, I was made to feel as though I was one of the club, often receiving free gifts as a loyal member. I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with both the players from the county or overseas opposition players and even engage in conversation with them. They were quite happy with you watching their practice sessions without blocking the view with advertising sheets. Autograph hunters of which there were many were left happy as most players were happy to oblige. Worcestershire may be one of the smaller counties but this experience was not confined just to them.
Over the last 6 years, I have been to watch Test Cricket at Lords, the Oval and Trent Bridge and all experiences were superior to Newlands.
The journey to the three English grounds is comfortable and safe, unlike my trip to Newlands on a train which can be dirty and sometimes dangerous. Once in the stadium, there is someone there to assist me with a wheelchair if needed something I don’t get at Newlands whereas it was offered at Oval, Lords and Trent Bridge. As a disabled person, I find this at times can be a real help. That same individual then offers to walk me to my seat and direct me to the disabled toilet if I should need it (which only disabled people can use). This service is not offered at Newlands as no policing of this is done and the number of able-bodied people using the disabled toilets is shocking! The seats again are more comfortable than they are at Newlands which means I don’t have to stand up and stretch every five minutes. The experience of visiting food stalls in England is better, most of the stalls I visited in those three grounds offered to carry what I had purchased to my seat for me. I only had that once or twice at Newlands.
Lastly and perhaps the most important the atmosphere in English grounds is in most cases superior. Over the past five years, Newlands has been like a morgue with at times half full stadiums bar, the 2015/16 England tour. Whereas 2012 and 2017 SA tours to England grounds were full to capacity for most of the series with crowds taking the weekend dress up very seriously which adds to the atmosphere of course.
It is for these reasons that if you gave me a free ticket to watch a Test Match anywhere, I would choose England. Newlands may have its mountain but it doesn’t have much else…