Sport

Rebuilding South African cricket, ball by ball

Neil Manthorp

We need a few good men (or women) to lead us out of the mess Cricket SA created. Fortunately Jacques Faul fits the bill, writes Neil Manthorp.

It may seem counterintuitive to celebrate Cricket South Africa’s slow, dismal but inevitable slide into a humiliating credibility void, but it is the prospect of what lies ahead that is so exciting. Often, an organisation in crisis needs to reach its “ground zero” before it can start rebuilding.

The last remaining issue to be addressed is the board members’ involvement in the carpet-sweeping exercise that followed the bonus and expenses scandal, which resulted in the end of Gerald Majola’s decade-long tenure as chief executive.

“There seems to be a real willingness to accept the findings and recommendations of the Nicholson inquiry and to move forward to a brighter future,” said Majola’s acting replacement, Jacques Faul.

“The board has appointed a steering committee to see how best the changes can be implemented, so we must believe that we are heading in the right direction.”

Faul is what sportsmen historically refer to as “a good man”. Perhaps only those involved in sport for a protracted period can really understand the intensity of that comment.

Those in the sporting arena can be brilliant, talented, entertaining and even geniuses, but very few are described as “good men”. It is the highest praise in an industry far more familiar with sarcasm and derision.

The former chief executive of the North West Cricket Association knew exactly how difficult and painful the process of taking over from Majola would be—to the extent that he initially refused his “secondment”. But he finally accepted that “somebody had to do it” and, more to the point, that options were extremely limited.

“It has been extremely difficult. We have gone through some very hard times and had to make some very hard decisions. I knew I wouldn’t make many friends, but hopefully the game in our country will be better off.

“Basically, I have been entrusted with assuring that the procedural side of CSA keeps functioning during this time of transition and that whoever takes over doesn’t have to worry about rebuilding,” Faul said.

Throwing in the towel
Majola has shown no inclination to fight for his job during the pending disciplinary hearing and Faul is keen to hand over to his successor as soon as possible—though he accepts it may be six months or longer.

Given cricket’s messy politics and selfish personal agendas, there is a legitimate argument to be made for the appointment of an “outsider” with a strong background in business. But that argument is mightily outweighed by the desperate need for a working understanding of a game—and industry—that is close to unique in the world of sport.

The two most obvious and compelling candidates are currently the two most senior figures in charge of the global game at International Cricket Council headquarters in Dubai—Haroon Lorgat and Dave Richardson. The former is coming to the end of his time as ICC chief executive and the latter has been keen to return to his homeland after six years in charge of cricket’s global affairs.

Lorgat has experience in CSA as both chief accountant and convenor of selectors, and it is not hyperbole to suggest that Richardson is the most respected administrator—especially among players—anywhere in the world.

Faul was understandably reluctant to comment on his possible successor, but did admit that Richardson would “tick all the boxes” if he were offered the role.

Proteas redeem South Africa
South Africa’s status in the global community has been maintained only by the performances of the national team for the past two years. It is a short-term situation that cannot last. The new man needs to have an empathy for the grassroots of the game as well as for its pinnacle.

Richardson, a lawyer from the Eastern Cape with a long and distinguished international playing career and an equally successful administrative one, is almost too good to be true.

If a CV of the ideal candidate was drawn up, it would be hard to believe his was real.

And what of his colour? Years ago, with Majola in his pomp and CSA seemingly bulletproof, it was said that a white man would never again be at its head.

But Willie Basson currently chairs CSA’s transformation committee and is the body’s acting president—and recently said that it was now in the business of appointing “the best man for the job”.

The Cobras and the Dolphins are currently without coaches. Basson said neither franchise would be pressured to appoint a black replacement for their white predecessors, Richard Pybus and Graham Ford.

How, then, could he condone the compulsory appointment of a black chief executive?

With Gary Kirsten riding high as national coach, Eric Simons and Paddy Upton atop the standings as coaches in the Indian Premier League and a host of talented players and administrators plying their trade outside of the sycophantic regime created over the past 10 years, the game of cricket in South Africa now has a great deal to be excited about—in the widest possible sense.

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