The time for anger and acrimony has passed, for now, to be replaced by a more positive energy with tinges of pity for those who cannot accept the new reality in South African cricket.
The new Director of Cricket and his coaching staff have it all to prove but, whomever they had been, a fresh look was desperately required. The playing reputations of Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher, Charl Langeveldt and Jacques Kallis are reason enough for Faf du Plessis and his squad to feel reassured.
The opinion of the national players has been almost entirely overlooked in the public domain in recent weeks, which is not surprising because their view should be private. It is known, however, that they expressed a desire – a ‘need’ – for more international experience in the change room. There were no dissenting voices about the organisation and value Enoch Nkwe provided, but when the ship was torpedoed in India, the players desperately wanted someone to help them locate the life-jackets.
It is impossible for those of us who have never experienced the high altitude of international cricket to understand the loneliness of defeat, never mind the crushing in India, but enough players have explained the importance of looking into the eyes of someone who has been there before. It doesn’t have to be the head coach – just as long as there is someone on the team who has been there before. It is no fault of Nkwe’s that he had not – or that none of his support staff had.
It’s not just about what happens on the field, as astute and canny as Boucher and Kallis are with over 350 test caps between them. It’s just as much about what happens off it. Now, more than ever, players have to be extremely careful about their behaviour on the field with 28 cameras rolling, but that means more words and intimidation tactics are exchanged off the field. Change rooms are close by, players need to pass in the same passages, sometimes even share dining areas.
When a senior player from the opposition encounters a junior player in such situations, they will take full advantage with a barrage of reminders of the young player’s inadequacies. It’s hard to answer back when it’s your first time in the national team, whether you’re 21 or 30 years old.
But ‘respect’ is immensely important in cricket change rooms and, simply by being there, Boucher and Kallis will change the dynamic of the series. They may not change the result, and they will almost certainly not change a batsman’s ability to cover drive or a bowler’s to use reverse swing, but they will provide a degree of protection and respect otherwise unavailable.
If that sounds a little too close to schoolboy cricket then, well, that’s the truth. There are hundreds of examples of young or inexperienced teams being bullied out of contests before they even came to ‘bat against ball.’ Not that India’s team needed to, but they let the Proteas know they were ‘nobodies’ in October this year – while they were being crushed.
Now for the pity.
The CSA president, Chris Nenzani, and his deputy, Beresford Williams, have let all their detractors know they will not be resigning. The remaining six members of what was, originally, a 12-member panel, have retained a creepy silence. Really creepy.
Nenzani and Williams both have admirable backgrounds as administrators stretching back over 25 years. They did sterling work at club level and gave up many evenings and weekends to serve the game, without financial reward. Like body shape, however, it’s hard to see the change on a day-to-day basis. Now they are so accustomed to the perks and privileges of their lofty positions they cannot comprehend the disdain and contempt in which they are held.
Calls for the Board’s resignation have reached a deafening scream – yet they cannot hear it. The demented Donovan May, who bullied his way to the presidency of EP Cricket, says it is a ‘media-driven’ campaign against the Board. The media is the messenger. One day he may – but almost certainly not – be interested to see or hear from the 26 seriously involved people (administrators, sponsors, broadcasters etc) who have contacted me to plea for pressure on the Board to resign. If only I could use some of the evidence of malpractice they provided me with now. But the time will come.
So Nenzani, Williams and Angelo Carolissen (Boland) continue to fight on, clutching even more desperately to their perks and privileges while failing to remember why they got involved the first place, for the love and respect of the game.
The Board have no credibility left. It is desperately sad. SACA represents all 317 professional players in the country, without a single dissenting voice, and they refuse to deal with the board. Sponsors, media and supporters have lost all faith and trust in them. Four directors have resigned. Yet still, they cling on. The night before the final of the MSL, they stayed at the Grande Roche Hotel and held a Board meeting there. It’s R4,000 a night or something like that… and we’re heading for a R1 billion deficit within a year.
They will hang on. Especially with the England tour to distract our attention. My very well informed friends tell me the now pitifully powerless directors believe ‘this will blow over’. No, it won’t. They may drag it out for many more months, but this Board – and their tenure on it – is over. And they will be reminded, for many years to come, by many more people than me, that every day they selfishly procrastinated cost the game millions of rands, hundreds of fans and immeasurable reputational damage
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.