SA cricket people need to pull on the same rope

The news that acting Cricket South Africa CEO, Jacques Faul, will be stepping down from the role on September 15 will come as a bitter blow to those hoping for a continuation of the stability and progress he had started to bring to the game since taking over seven months ago.

He had hoped to continue in the role but the relentless battles with some members of the senior CSA management team who remain loyal to the suspended Thabang Moroe finally wore him down. He will now return to his role as CEO of the Titans franchise.

The manner of his appointment has been cynically questioned. He didn’t apply for the position or even volunteer his services. Desperate to provide some comfort to SuperSport, CSA’s sponsors and senior players (all of whom are known to respect Faul), and facing growing concerns from the public in the lead up to the England tour, the CSA board and it’s president, Chris Nenzani, implored Faul to take over as he did in 2012 when Gerald Majola was suspended following the IPL bonus scandal. 

Questions were also asked about Faul’s appointment of Graeme Smith as Director of Cricket and Mark Boucher’s as head coach. In many ways, they were obvious appointments at the time, based on their successful track records in cricket and cricket coaching respectively and their willingness to make themselves available at extremely short notice ahead of a crucial incoming tour. But Faul was not acting without necessary support. The appointments of Smith and Boucher, together with Smith’s appointments of Enoch Nkwe (Assistant Coach), Charl Langevelt (bowling coach), Justin Ontong (fielding coach), Linda Zondi (convenor), Ashwell Prince (SA A Coach) and Volvo Masubelele (team manager) were approved in principle by the Board and the President, as was the press release issued by CSA on 14 December 2020 announcing their appointments. Furthermore, it was Nenzani, in fact, who had personally approached Smith and then persuaded him to take the role even after he had publicly removed himself from contention.

Nobody doubts Boucher was appointed without due process because the Proteas were without a confirmed head coach less than two weeks before England were due to arrive for four Test matches and six limited overs matches. The surprise was that he was appointed for four years but there was a craving for stability with so much uncertainty within the organisation. 

There is no doubt that the appointment of three white men to such important positions was clumsy and bound to attract criticism, but none of them appointed themselves. The board, 10 out 14 of whom are black including the president and vice-president, approved the appointments.

Faul has been steering CSA through a critical time securing Betway as a major sponsor (albeit at much less than half of the R70million Standard Bank contributed per year before their departure), procuring long-time partner Momentum as a sponsor of the women’s national team until the 2023-24 season and somehow keeping all CSA staff and players on full pay throughout the Corona virus pandemic. He even managed to get 24 players on the field for the 3 Team Cricket match at Centurion 10 days ago. 

Those achievements are minor, at least financially, compared to Smith’s two most important deals. The first was to secure a commitment from old rival and friend, Saurav Ganguly, to send the Indian team to South Africa for an unscheduled, three-match T20 series worth an eye-watering $10 million. Originally it was to be squeezed in at the end of August but because of scheduling and quarantine regulations the aim is to host Virat Kohli’s team at the end of March next year.

The second was to persuade England to move their scheduled three ODIs against the Proteas from March to the prime-time of December and then to play an additional, unscheduled, three T20 Internationals. 

At a time of desperate financial losses with CSA heading towards a billion rand financial hole in two years time, the six extra fixtures negotiated by former captain Smith will be worth around R250 million. Yet there are some members of the board and others in senior positions who seem determined to undermine him. 

Smith was negotiating his original short term contract with CSA, in order to mitigate some of the cost of the salary for a position which had never previously existed, and in order to allow him to fulfill his existing contractual commitments, he suggested that he be allowed to finish his tenure prior to the Indian Premier League to commentate on the event. The board agreed. His subsequent appointment on a longer term basis apparently provides for a similar concession. 

There is no stopping the current outcry against racial bias and prejudice in the game, and there should be no attempt to. It should be encouraged and nurtured for the sake and future of everyone who loves the game. Loving the game, of course, includes keeping it alive on the scale we have become accustomed to – but without the appalling rights and privilege some believe it owes them. 

Very, very soon everybody will have to grab the same rope and pull in the same direction to keep it upright and afloat.

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