While the Proteas are regrouping under Mark Boucher, below that level and in the Cricket South Africa boardroom there is still a long way to go, writes LUKE ALFRED.
When Jacques Faul took over as interim chief executive at CSA before Christmas, the sport was – proverbially speaking – facing an innings defeat inside three days. Here, though, was an innings defeat with a difference: a kind of Possibles versus Probables, or CSA versus CSA ‘A’, which made the sport’s wounds all the more grotesque.
How could it be, some were asking, that the system’s latest crisis was engineered with such gobsmacking efficiency by cricket people themselves?
The system had clearly been hijacked by Thabang Moroe (and an inner sanctum of cronies) who had been given licence to pretty much do as he pleased by the CSA board.
The board, after all, knew Moroe’s operational credentials as a former client services manager for MTN were negligible before he was given the interim chief executive role after Haroon Lorgat’s departure. They appointed him chief executive anyway, an action revealed to be increasingly scandalous the more his mad reign continued.
Faul might have been given a mandate to reform and clean up but, let’s not forget, this is one man doing an impossible job. With the exception of three directors who resigned in a black week for cricket in early December, the people who witnessed Moroe fly the plane into the side of the mountain are still blithely pocketing their honorariums.
Despite several initiatives to unseat them, president Chris Nenzani and vice-president Beresford Williams are still very much in place. So, too, are serial opportunists like Gauteng’s Jack Madiseng, who never had his credentials (or popularity) as Gauteng president democratically examined because the province did not hold an annual general meeting in 2019 so he retained his seat on the CSA board.
‘The problem with dissatisfaction against some of the non-independent board members is that there’s no mechanism for a vote of no confidence outside an election,’ says Faul when asked about widespread anger towards the CSA board post-Moroe. ‘We’ve got to clear up the Memorandum of Incorporation first and only then can we begin to think about unseating people who were implicated in Moroe’s appointment. That’s going to take time.’
Faul makes it known that he favours a greater number of independents on the board – there are only two, Marius Schoeman and Steve Cornelius – but points out that CSA has been this way before. ‘This was an issue when I took over from Gerald Majola in an interim capacity in 2012,’ he says. ‘Way back then Willie Basson argued in favour of a high number of independents but that means we fall foul of Sascoc because they’re not into too many independent directors.’
While the mess is taking time to unravel, Faul is more optimistic on the playing front. He says Graeme Smith, as director of cricket, and new national coach Mark Boucher are making headway in trying to tempt big name players back into the Proteas fold.
With Great Britain no longer a member of the European Union post-Brexit, the Kolpak loophole falls away. This doesn’t mean Simon Harmer, say, wouldn’t remain at Essex as one of their two overseas professionals, but Faul is hopeful the collapse of Kolpak can be turned in South Africa’s favour.
There have been discussions with Faul’s counterpart in the England and Wales Cricket Board, Tom Harrison, and although there is some paperwork to do, it looks like a very different side might run out for the T20 World Cup in October compared to the one that did duty against Australia at home in March.
Smith and Boucher are concerned about the loss of the so-called ‘Big Five – Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw (Hampshire), Duanne Olivier (Yorkshire), Dane Vilas (Lancashire) and Harmer at Essex – but their interest is not exclusive to the five.
‘The issue post-Kolpak is really one of free agency, isn’t it? And what would be offered by counties,’ Says Faul. ‘We would be looking to bring someone like Harmer into the fold for the World T20 and we think we could probably match what he’s earning at Essex for that World Cup window. You need bowlers, don’t you? We’ve had meetings and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get some of the players who’ve gone to play in England for the duration
of the World T20 maybe for longer.’
Abbott is a very handy T20 bowler, as his numbers in last year’s Mzansi Super League (MSL) show. Although Harmer wasn’t successful with the Jozi Stars in the second edition of the tournament, he was part of a formidable Stars attack with Olivier and Kagiso Rabada, that won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2018.
With a couple of the current Kolpaks suddenly available for the Proteas, along with AB de Villiers, South Africa begin to look like a proper side. Not only that, but they also have some backup strength, one of the important reasons England were consistently successful in South Africa over Christmas.
Faul is non-committal on a third edition of the MSL later this year, saying, ‘It will go ahead if CSA can afford it’. This isn’t exactly a glowing testimonial for editions one and two, which, admittedly, lost the kind of money CSA can hardly afford.
This said, there is evidence to support the fact Indian cricket has been super-charged by the Indian Premier league (IPL), and a profit-making MSL is a wonderful way for the Kyle Verreynnes, Ryan Rickletons and Matthew Breetzkes of this world to play international cricket at one remove.
One could also argue that the cancellation of South Africa’s first foray into T20 cricket in the form of the T20 Global League was where the relationship between CSA and the SA Players’ Association (Saca) started to sour. Saca insisted, remember, on being paid out for CSA’s failure to honour its obligations to the tournament, which, compounded matters to the point where the two parties ended up in the South Gauteng High Court last winter.
The matter that took them there – the restructuring of the domestic game and the potential loss of livelihoods for Saca members as a result – has since been solved, with the parties agreeing to further consultation before June this year by which time a final decision must be reached.
‘We’ve sorted things out with Saca, and Andrew Breetzke [the new Saca chief executive post-Tony Irish] and I are talking regularly,’ Faul reports. ‘Legal costs will come to about R750 000 but I think that’s a small price to pay for what might have been.’
Irish’s departure has not been the only major one in cricket’s revolving door, with Test skipper Faf du Plessis calling it a day in mid-February after a bruising summer in which his credentials were regularly – and unfairly – questioned with a consequent collapse of his form.
Faul distances himself from the Du Plessis matter, saying simply that Smith and Boucher ‘felt new energy was needed and that Faf’s tenure had come to a natural conclusion’. He adds that he’s not at the cutting edge of making decisions about the Test captaincy but does mention Dean Elgar’s name as a possible successor.
While Faul has clearly brought stability and authority back to the organisation, cricket’s makeover is far from complete. CSA remains financially stressed and the summer has made clear that Boucher’s magic wand perhaps lacks the potency of Harry Potter’s.
Faul does say the forensic audit called for by some, including former lead independent Iqbal Khan, in his resignation letter, is on the go, which is good news. ‘The forensic is being driven by independent board member Marius Schoeman and won’t be individuals-based,’ he says. ‘It will include transactions and suspicious transactions going back 48 months but the scope might be narrowed. As far as the scope, time and cost of the forensic audit is concerned, we’re not entirely sure. We’ll have to see.’
On playing matters he’s careful to distance himself from those in the cockpit, who must back their large personas with delivery on the ground. For Smith and Boucher it will be difficult task. They don’t have the same stellar talents at their disposal compared to their playing days and bringing back Kolpaks is a band-aid placed over a gaping wound.
Who, for example, would have predicted that in the 2020 U19 World Cup the junior Proteas would lose twice to Afghanistan and lose a warm-up game to Zimbabwe, cricketers from a country that has no more than 30 professionals, so are probably a 10th the size of South Africa.
Clearly there is still a great deal of work to be done.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca) finally resolved certain issues in early February when CSA’s members’ council agreed to rescind its decision to disband the six franchises.
The members’ council and the board stated last year that they had decided to end franchise cricket at the end of the 2019-20 season and revert to the 11-team affiliate structure with the addition of two new teams.
Saca took CSA to court in an attempt to get clarity in terms of the restructuring of the domestic game.
With the members’ council agreeing to scrap the restructuring, Saca, in turn, dropped the court action it had set in motion against CSA.
Saca’s CEO, Andrew Breetzke, said: ‘The relationship between Saca and CSA has been characterised by open hostility over the past 12 months. The rescinding of the members’ council decision and subsequent settlement of the court application will enable Saca to engage with CSA in a constructive manner on the many challenges facing cricket in SA.
‘Players remain the key stakeholder in the game and it will be imperative that their interests are protected when dealing with these challenges.’
BACK IN BUSINESS
Corrie van Zyl’s suspension from Cricket South Africa (CSA) was lifted on 25 February and he was able to return to work.
The former acting director of cricket and head of pathways and development was suspended by former CSA CEO Thabang Moroe in October 2019.
The conflicts centred around Van Zyl’s alleged involvement in the 2018 Mzansi Super League (MSL) and an agreement between CSA and the South African Cricketers Association (Saca).
Saca had issued a dispute with CSA, claiming the organisation owed the South African Professional Cricketers Trust R2.5-million dating back to a commercial agreement around player rights that was signed in November 2018.
According to a CSA statement, the internal investigation is over and a resolution with Van Zyl had been found.
‘While the details of the case remain confidential between the employee and employer, both parties are pleased the case has been concluded. By mutual agreement, CSA will in due course announce Mr Van Zyl’s role in the organisation as part of the current realignment processes.
‘As part of the renewal efforts taking place in the organisation, CSA looks forward to the resolution of all such outstanding matters.’