In a couple of weeks time our attention will once again return to the fortunes of the national players as they tackle Sri Lanka for the right to remain the second best team in the world – in both forms of the game. It’s going to be a very tough assignment.
In the meantime, what’s been happening behind the scenes? A lot, actually, and cricket has every reason to remain thankful to the bumbling ineptitude of its counterparts in rugby that the media spotlight has fallen on so little of it. There has been plenty of bad news, but also some good – so let’s start with that.
Unlike professional rugby players in our rugby-mad nation, the cricketers were this week recognised as important enough to have a direct role in administering the professional game in South Africa. And I mean a ‘direct’ role because they have been given a seat on the Board of Directors of Cricket SA.
It was a monumental step in the right direction, a decision that will have positive consequences for the game during the next 20-30 years. As long as the game is played, in fact. Not only will the players now have a voice during the most important decision-making processes, they will start to feel part of ‘the’ team of cricket, not just ‘their’ team.
Preliminary discussions have already taken place with a view to building the brand of the national team and consequently its support-base and potential revenue. Just one example is merchandising of official team products. How many Springbok supporters watch Test matches wearing a Bok jersey? A lot, and the result (even allowing for the many fakes that provide no income for SA Rugby and the players) is an income of between R13 and R15 million per year.
Cricket SA and their newly appointed players director (who is likely to be SA Cricketers Association boss Tony Irish) will attempt to build a merchandising and sponsorship-enhancing programme based on the England’s TEPP which is a commercial agreement between the England Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers Association.
Instead of administrators telling players what their ‘traditional’ duties are to sponsors, players take the initiative and suggest how they can be of best service to the sponsors. It is a relationship that has had all three parties smiling from ear to ear. And no, the performance of the current England team – Test team, that is – is not a coincidence.
Now for the bad news.
Griquas have filed an application to the High Court for a review of the process that led to the awarding of the central Franchise to Free State rather than themselves. They claim that Cricket South Africa infringed its own criteria for the selection of the Franchise when it awarded it to Free State and they claim that the selection panel could not possibly have given the Griquas bid fair and due consideration.
The application extends beyond 300 pages and I’m no speed reader, let alone a legal expert, but my own, initial interpretation of the document suggests that Griquas have a very, very strong argument.
If the judge rules that Griquas have, indeed, been treated unfairly, he will have to decide between ordering Cricket SA to scrap the Free State Franchise, reconvene their selection panel and start the process all over again, and what is called “balance of convenience”.
Forgive my simplistic view of the law, but the latter option appears to translate into “you were wrong and lots of people have suffered as a result but fixing your mistake will be a complete pain in the arse for everyone concerned and will result in even more people being inconvenienced.” What a choice.
And finally, there are still no answers to the scandal of how the UCB’s financial director could steal over R7 million and nobody, but nobody, takes responsibility. There are still so many unanswered questions. In fact, there are even more today than there were yesterday.
So it’s one step forward, one back and one sideways for cricket in SA. I was always told that the best progress is made ‘one step at a time’. Just imagine the day when they all go forward. Hopefully we’ll be pushing to stay number one in the world by then, not scrapping to hang on to number two.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.