Working in a vacuum of trust

It is no coincidence that the announcement of Graeme Smith’s temporary and short-term appointment as Director of Cricket in South Africa was made by interim chief executive Jacques Faul rather than the defunct president, Chris Nenzani.

I say ‘Director of Cricket in South Africa’ rather than CSA’s Director of Cricket because, although Smith may be paid by CSA, he will not be working for CSA. He will be working for Faf du Plessis, the players and the game as a whole, not for a president or a board which has lost the trust and respect of the vast majority of the game’s domestic teams, all the players and the country’s supporters.

Smith will attempt to put structures in place – coaching staff and selectors most immediately and then whatever else he can do before his three-month term comes to an end and he leaves to honour a contractual commitment to commentate and present in the IPL.

He will work as closely as possible with Faul and those he can trust but Nenzani and his fellow directors will be by-passed until they do the right thing and step aside. Central Gauteng Lions president Jack Madiseng resigned last night. There are just eight of the original 12 remaining. They must, surely, know where the exit door is now. And how much people would like them to take it.

With apologies to those readers who may already have seen this in my Business Day column on Tuesday, the following is what I wrote on Monday:

“Then there is Nenzani’s cynical misuse of Graeme Smith’s name in connection with the Director of Cricket role. It is deeply unfair on the former captain, the national team and all supporters of the game.

Smith will not turn away from Faf du Plessis and the national squad (when one is selected) but he will not contemplate signing a long-term contract with the current administration in place. Nenzani is either too thick-skinned to see the irony, or perhaps he is in denial. As much as he talks about bringing Smith in as the ‘preferred candidate’, it is his own presence that is preventing it. How could you trust a man prepared to heap so much emotional blackmail on you in public?

Nenzani has placed Smith in a position where ordinary fans, especially young ones, may perceive him to be the ‘villain’ for not taking the position when, in fact, he has every right and many good reasons for not doing so.

There is also the prospect, however unlikely it may seem at the moment, that (suspended chief executive) Thabang Moroe might return to his office following his lucrative suspension. That is another very good reason for Smith not to sign a long-term contract.”

Both Faul and Smith are acutely aware of the dysfunctionality of the current board. But they cannot waste any of their precious time on it. They have a hundred more important matters to focus on and, besides, there is precious little they can do to influence the situation. At least, not in the public domain. They need and would prefer, to focus all of their energy on the immediate task of preparing the team to face England.

Another bizarre and laughable irony (although it is not funny) is that Faul’s interaction with the media is being organised and overseen by the newly appointed ‘Communications Manager’ Thansanqa Mthembu. The same man who authorised the revocation of five journalists accreditations and instructed a staff member to have us removed from the media WhatsApp group, an important source of information

His credibility has gone the same way as that of the president and the board’s. But just as Smith and Faul will have to work around the issue of people they can’t work with, so will those members of the media who can’t work with a Communications Manager with such a profound lack of understanding of communications and media.

If that means I can’t speak to Dr Faul then, with due humility and respect, we may all be the poorer for that.

Those who wonder and worry about the future of the game need not do so. The fundamental building blocks remain in place. South Africa has an abundant supply of talented cricketers and hundreds of thousands of people who love the game and will support it.

Administrators come and go, cricketers and their passion will remain forever.

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