Mark Boucher’s tenure as head coach of the Proteas must end in the wake of him lying about racially offensive behaviour, failing to lead decisively on issues of race and Enoch Nkwe’s resignation for being undermined, writes RYAN VREDE.
There were legitimate grounds to fire Boucher on the weakness of his performance as head coach alone. The Proteas have lost seven of 13 series (one tied) since taking charge in late 2019. Nine of those 13 have been played on home soil and one of them was contesting an injury-riddled Sri Lanka.
He was never going to suffer that fate. This, after all, was a man whose appointment adhered to none of Cricket South Africa’s recruitment or hiring protocols and one who his close friend, director of cricket Graeme Smith, handed to him with an unprecedented four-year contract.
Setting that aside, Boucher’s admission that he was part of a group of players who sang a song in which Adams was called “brown sh**” at fines’ meetings must be the final act in his tenure. He should be fired or resign.
In Monday’s statement, Boucher added that he “…can categorically say that did not give Mr Adams the name ‘brown sh**’ and “does not know who gave him the name”. This is a defence akin to an accused murderer telling the court that he didn’t formulate the plan to murder, despite executing the plan.
As a start, Adams never accused Boucher of giving him the vile nickname. Adams also made clear his intention for telling the story at Cricket South Africa’s Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) hearings. “I’m just highlighting that it should never happen and if we take this forward in the right way, we will have a lot more respect for each other,” he explained. “Maybe he [Boucher] should come and say sorry.
“Maybe that is all that needs to happen. It is something that should not be brushed under the carpet. We should air it, if we want our teams within Cricket SA to have the right ethics, the right mentality, the right respect for one another, we should air these things.”
Adams was asking for introspection. Boucher was looking for an escape.
This escape attempt came in the form of his legal team sending two affidavits to the transformation ombudsman of SJN, Dumisa Ntsebeza, a fortnight ago. In one affidavit, he apologises unreservedly for any offence and hurt he might have caused during his playing days while, in the other, he vehemently rejects the allegations Adams levelled against him.
I had grace for Boucher in the wake of Adams’ testimony. I hoped he would do the internal work needed, address the issue publicly where he would concede that he played a role in the racist treatment of a teammate, explain why he did so and present a case as to why he isn’t that person any longer.
I’ve needed this type of grace in my life a few times. We all have. We stumble, we learn, we grow. This is life. I suspect many South Africans would have extended the same grace, had Boucher shown the required self-awareness and contrition.
Instead, Boucher chose a more bullish path. This mindset served him well as a player. Ironically, it could be his demise in the game of life.
Boucher disqualified himself from any understanding by lying about his involvement in racially offensive behaviour. What made this worse was that, by filing the affidavits through his lawyers, he sent a powerful message that he was prepared to litigate his stance and expose Adams as a teller of the most damaging and reprehensible lies.
Boucher has overseen a terrible period for the Proteas on and off the field. It is the latter that will define him.
His players were completely rudderless on the issue of kneeling in support for the Black Lives Matter movement at its height.
I recall asking Kagiso Rabada about a what CSA called a “team decision” not to kneel. He couldn’t have been more awkward, stumbling over an answer while trying to drive home the fact that he supported the movement.
The team’s media liaison rebuked me and those who asked follow-up questions about this. A couple of weeks later I wrote a piece that said Boucher had failed in his leadership on this issue. Hours after publishing it, I got a call from the same media officer, who told me that Boucher was in the room and irate, insisting on talking to me.
I don’t recall why, but the phone was never handed over. I stood firm in my view that, as the Proteas coach, he’d failed in his duty to consider the views of his entire team, instead allowing a group decision to trump what should be an intensely personal one.
There is also the significant issue of Enoch Nkwe’s resignation on Monday. TimesLive‘s Tiisetso Malepa reported the Proteas assistant coach “feels undermined, and that he has been reduced to being a ‘cones boy’ in a toxic working environment”.
His source added: “The other concerning issue is discipline within the Proteas, which Enoch is not happy with. The conduct of some senior players and members of the team management in terms of discipline leaves a lot to be desired.”
This reflects poorly on Boucher whether he wants it to or not. A lack of public support from either his white-ball skipper Temba Bavuma or any other members of the Proteas squad, speaks volumes.
Boucher simply can’t continue in his role. He has betrayed his duty to the nation and team. His time is up.