Googlies and politicians

When Gerald Majola took over as chief executive of the United Cricket Board he didn’t expect to have an easy ride and he certainly didn’t expect much sympathy from people when the going got tough. But like it or not he has all my sympathy this week.

He will almost certainly spend the next seven days – if not longer – dealing with the fallout of a meeting he held with politicians and government officials who have almost no idea of the intricacies of cricket and, frankly, don’t care. And neither should they.

The trouble with politicians is that they can be intimidating to us ‘normal’ people and they usually get what they want when they’re dealing with non-politicians. Basically, we tell them what they want to hear and we lose the argument. That’s why they are politicians and we are not.

So when Majola presented cricket’s case to the portfolio committee on sport in parliament on Friday and was tackled head-on about the colour problem in national teams, he was bullied into giving assurances that he had no right to give.

Saturday’s newspapers quoted Majola at length guaranteeing the politicians that there would definitely be five black cricketers in the squad to tour India and that Mark Boucher would be dropped in favour of Thami Tsolekile. Oh dear.

The chief executive is not a selector, of course, and has no right to make such demands. But that is the least of Majola’s worries.

If Boucher’s name does not appear when the squad is announced on Wednesday morning he will have every right to query his non-selection on grounds of race and demand compensation. Yet another legal battle (he has lost all five he’s been in so far) will not please the chief executive but even that isn’t his biggest worry.

As an affiliate member of the ICC, Cricket South Africa is bound by the constitution of the world ruling body and therefore a) cannot allow governmental interference or influence in the control and running of cricket in South Africa and b) cannot allow any player to be prejudiced on grounds of race, creed or religion.

No wonder Majola was quoted all over the Sunday newspapers breaking land-speed records for back-peddling. No, he didn’t say there would definitely be five black players. No, he didn’t say Boucher would be dropped etc etc. Unfortunately, at least one member of the committee is quite clear about what he remembers Majola saying:

“Gerald Majola said there would be five black players in the squad. He said their succession plan was beginning to yield results and they would demonstrate this by including five players in the squad to tour India,” said Butana Komphela on Monday.

Oh dear.

Now for the good news – yes, there is some! Cricket doesn’t have to select any obscure, largely unheard-of players to appease the politicians and the withdrawal of Nicky Boje means that Boucher can still be selected and there can still be SIX black players in the squad, all selected on merit. But it was a close call for the chief executive. Next time he talks to politicians he’d better learn to speak their language.

Possible squad: Graeme Smith (captain), Boeta Dippenaar, Jacques Rudolph, Jacques Kallis, Martin van Jaarsveld, Hashim Amla, Andrew Hall, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Justin Ontong, Robin Peterson, Garnett Kruger, Makhaya Ntini, Charl Langeveldt.

 

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