Hall of Hope

In the world of business it is normal practice to be motivated by the bottom line – money. In fact, the shareholders of a public company would be disgusted if their managing director wasn’t motivated by making money. Everyone in a successful company, from the tea boy to the most expensive suit in the building should be driven by the prospect of making a bit more cash.

So why is it so different in sport? I mean, of course it should be a little different, but only a little. After all, if you were to say that sportsmen need to be motivated by loyalty, passion, a sense of ‘teamness’ and a fierce determination to win, then a captain of industry would reply that he, too, is required to have those qualities and would like them in his staff as well.

But calling a cricketer a ‘money-grabber’ is like accusing a golfer of kicking his ball in the rough. It’s like claiming a music composer has copied some else’s work. And boy, do people get upset.

Andrew Hall was particularly upset by the content of my previous column which explained that he had been cut from the list of contracted players at the Eastern Titans Franchise because his agent, whom I said was Ray Jennings, had not been able to reach a financially satisfactory agreement.

So Jennings and Hall came across as money-grabbers and they were not happy. They are not happy. And I’m not happy, either. So I’m having another go at explaining what happened.

I will always remember the impact Hall had on the South African team when he made his Test debut against Australia at Newlands four years ago. Along with Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince, Hall would have played for his country for nothing. He was passionate, committed and inspirational and he was exactly what we all needed as an antidote to the misery of Darryl Cullinan’s withdrawal from the team on the eve of that match. So let me say straight away that I do not believe Hall has lost those qualities. But he is a man of very strong principles and he won’t easily be swayed from them.

Let’s put aside the issue of money for the moment. Hall’s problems with the new Franchise started soon after it was formed because he wanted Jennings as the coach and not Dave Nosworthy, and he wasn’t shy about telling people. Eventually he dropped his campaign for Jennings but he wasn’t happy. Bad start.

Then, at the beginning of the Pro20 series, Cullinan asked Hall to keep wicket. Hall reasoned that, as an established international all rounder, it would be a retrogressive step to take the gloves again. He also said his back was problematic and wasn’t up to the job of ‘keeping, though he could bowl and bat. Cullinan, apparently, told him that if he wasn’t fit enough to ‘keep then he wasn’t fit enough to play. Another bad start.

Hall was clearly a little gatvol when he left the country to take up his contract with Worcestershire in England because, rather than negotiate with the new Franchise himself, he told the administrators to deal with Jennings on his behalf. The precise contents of those dealings isn’t completely clear but, in the context of the currently prevailing atmosphere of bitterness and resentment, it is important to hand out plenty of ‘benefit of the doubt.’

There may have been some genuine confusion over the issue of money. And if there was, it may have arisen like this: Jennings, speaking to Franchise administrators on Hall’s behalf, mentions that Hall always responded very favourably to ‘incentivisation’ while playing at Easterns. In other words, he was paid for runs and wickets. Nothing wrong with that. Barry Richards started it in Durban in 1970 and Graeme Pollock wasn’t far behind.

So, possibly, Franchise officials saw Hall’s refusal to sign his contract as a money issue because they had refused to offer incentives. Perhaps Jennings was merely explaining how he had managed to get the best out of Hall but was not necessarily advocating a similar scheme.

So Cullinan enters into negotiation himself with Jennings and gives him, and Hall, a three-week deadline to sign. The deadline passes, Cullinan calls Jennings, an argument ensues and Cullinan – who has a great deal of experience in dealing with ‘awkward’ players – recommends to the Franchise Board that they sack Hall. So they do.

Hall’s ‘problem’ then, was with the captain and the coach of the Franchise, not the money he was being offered.

But now everyone must move forward and be positive. Hall must find a new Franchise and he must concentrate on playing his best cricket and returning to the national squad. And that, hopefully, is all we need to say on the subject.


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