As with most successful captains, the best administrators are often the ones who enjoy the most luck. David Graveney, for example, took an educated gamble on Andrew Strauss as a stop-gap replacement for the injured Michael Vaughan earlier this year and when he came good, immediately, Nasser Hussain promptly retired.
The England selection chief is now lauded for the consistency of his work and the stability of the team. Actually, he got lucky – very lucky.
Haroon Lorgat, I believe, is going to be lucky for South Africa, too. Already he has enjoyed a couple of tremendous but well deserved breaks of good fortune on his return to the selection panel as convenor and he is the kind of man to make further good luck for himself.
His latest stroke of good fortune is surely his most important to date – the recall of Mark Boucher to the squad for the final two Tests against England.
Boucher, according to several well placed legal advisors, would have had a solid case for unfair labour practice and racial discrimination against the UCB after he was originally selected for the first three tests by the four-man selection panel but was then vetoed in favour of Thami Tsolekile by Board president Ray Mali.
I am assured that Boucher had no interest in pursuing the legal route at this stage but he may well have changed his mind if his advisors had continued to point out that his career was stagnating because of an unconstitutional or perhaps even unlawful action.
Wearing his other hat as UCB treasurer, of course, Lorgat is better placed than most to see how much money the UCB has paid out in various unlawful dismissal, unfair labour practice and compensation cases over the last three years. Just ask Graham Ford, Craig Smith, Lance Klusener, Hylton Ackerman and Ian Smith.
“That had nothing at all to do with Mark’s recall,” Lorgat said this weekend. “Mark knows exactly why he was left out and I’m delighted to say, now, that his progress and attitude have been first class. I’m very pleased to hear and read some of the things he’s been saying since he was left out,” Lorgat said.
Boucher’s feisty approach to both team mates and opposition alike had, reportedly, become a demoralizing influence on the team during a miserable 2004 during which they won just two out of 12 test matches and lost a stream on one-day internationals including a record equaling 10 in a row.
If Boucher plays then it would have to be at the expense of Hashim Amla – incumbent ‘keeper AB de Villiers is clearly talented enough to hold down a place purely as a batsman. But would Lorgat really be prepared to drop Amla after just three, admittedly disappointing matches?
“I don’t know yet. But all I can say is that I wanted Mark’s hardness and experience back in the squad and just having it in the dressing room would be good enough for me at this stage. We won the first two days in Durban and the guys thought they’d won the match. Now we’ve won a match in Cape Town I don’t want the guys thinking they’ve won the series,” Lorgat said.
If Boucher really carries that much influence, and is that highly regarded by Lorgat, it seems even stranger that he was omitted for the first three Tests.
The disappearance of another potentially embarrassing and costly legal case was, Lorgat insisted, simply a happy accident. “I hadn’t even heard a word about a possible case. If I had I would have dug my heels in and left Mark out for even longer.”
Clearly it is not only Boucher who qualifies as feisty!
Nonetheless, Lorgat is a conscientious, caring man and one who is deeply committed to transformation of South Africa and South African cricket. As long as he keeps enjoying breaks as lucky as this one then we’ll all be fine and South African cricket’s wobbly reputation around the world will suffer no further embarrassments.
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