BCCI or bust? The tough questions
Chris Nenzani was elected president of Cricket South Africa (CSA) six months ago largely because of his calm demeanour and ability to bring divergent opinions to a common consensus. Careers in teaching and cricket administration in the Border region ran concurrently and taught him two things: confrontation is largely a waste of time and effort and administrators belong neither on the back nor front pages of newspapers. Not even in the middle pages.
This week, however, he chose to answer some of the hard questions facing CSA and its board in the aftermath of India's curtailed tour of South Africa and the apparent fallout between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and CSA's chief executive, Haroon Lorgat.
You were appointed after CSA had reached crisis point on several levels, notably public confidence. How long did it feel as if you were president of a board "in crisis"?
The recovery process started when the previous board was still in place and it accepted unanimously the recommendations of the Nicholson Committee, although these later had to be tailored to meet the conditions laid down by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. I would not have accepted the presidency had this not been the case.
From the very start of the existence of the newly constituted board, I have been impressed by the sense of unity, cohesion and purpose that has been evident. We have been able to reach decisions by consensus and that is the way it should always be. We knew the crisis was over once sponsors and other stakeholders started coming on board, not to mention a much more positive response from the wider public and the media.
Two years of administrative in-fighting appear to have left South Africa trailing in the wake of India, England and Australia as the major international powers in the game. True?
We have to look at ourselves and realise that the fact that we kept on having a different president representing us at the International Cricket Council (ICC) board created an atmosphere of instability as our international colleagues saw us. We allowed the Gerald Majola saga to drag on for too long. It raised questions about what was going on behind the scenes. I became well aware of these issues when I started attending ICC board meetings.
Fortunately the Proteas keep reminding everybody that we are a major power on the field, but we must now convince people that our administration is in similar good order to return to where we belong at the table.
No major ICC event for the next decade? That must hurt.
It does. We owe it to all our stakeholders, especially the fans, to deliver on this front. We have all seen what world cups across all the sporting codes can do for our country. It is essential to host major events for the future growth of cricket. Again, this is tied to the administrative instability of the past few years; we must make sure that this never happens again.
There are suggestions, even allegations, that the new CSA board is riven by the same provincial and personal agendas as the old one. What difference has having independent directors on the board made?
I can categorically state that this is no longer the case. The independent directors chair most of the important subcommittees of the board and they have made a huge input in making sure that we all act in the best interests of cricket in this country.
Good corporate governance is the principle by which the board is run and there will be no exceptions to this rule. We are fortunate to have independent board members among us who have vast experience of being involved in major corporates and they will keep us all on our toes.
What are your thoughts on suggestions that CSA has been acquiescent to the bullying of the BCCI?
We negotiated the best possible deal that we could to ensure that the tour took place. We are still involved in negotiations to enable the outstanding Indian tour fixtures to take place at a later date.
Please explain the process of appointing Lorgat as chief executive. Opinions diverge enormously on how "responsible" it was to appoint him, given the BCCI's view.
In terms of our commitment to good corporate governance, which is non-negotiable, we appointed an independent company to run the process of compiling a short list and recommendations for the board's consideration.
We were disappointed with the quality of the initial shortlist and we instructed the independent company to do some head hunting, which is what led to the delay in finalising the appointment.
When it came to the final shortlist and the final interviews, it became obvious that Lorgat was far and away the best candidate, with his qualities as a cricketer (vice-captain of the South African Board representative team), administrator (chief executive of the ICC) and businessman (managing partner in one of South Africa's biggest accountancy firms). It is not often that a candidate can tick all three of those boxes so effectively.
We would have been failing in our fiduciary duties as directors if we had gone totally against our independent recruitment firm and effectively ignored their advice. We knew there was an element of risk involved but, at the end of the day, doing the right thing in terms of good corporate governance had to be the correct way to go.
Is your chief executive a lame duck while the Indians are in town?
Now that the Indian tour is signed and sealed, most of the work involved while the Indians are here devolves to our operational team.
He obviously won't be involved with the Indian tour, but December is a busy period for our cricket, with all the development tournaments taking place, and the key focus will be to make sure that all our plans are being put in place for the ICC World Twenty20 and the ICC under-19 World Cup, which take place early in the new year.
There is also the matter of the approaching Australian tour and arranging a suitable programme for Newlands over New Year, details of which will be announced next week. I suspect he is going to be a busy man.
How injurious to CSA's long-term health will the loss of income from the curtailed Indian tour be?
It will hit us hard, particularly in the short term, but there is a clear message for us that we can't be dependent on getting the bulk of our income from one source, particularly from one over which we have no control. There may have to be some belt-tightening but we must make sure that this does not happen at the expense of our development programmes, particularly those that affect our underprivileged communities.
What about future reliance on India tours? It seems even England and Australia rely on income from India, never mind all the other smaller nations. Is that just the way it is – accept it?
That is something we are already addressing. When we had our recent transformation indaba we dealt with all the pillars of our business and that included coming up with a more sustainable business model.
There isn't a country that isn't grateful for the revenue that events involving India generate but, at the same time, we need to come up with some innovative ideas to increase our own revenue streams.
There are other rapidly growing economies in the world, not to mention other geographical areas that have hardly been touched by cricket, and there is plenty of scope for us to play our part in growing cricket as a truly global brand.
How do you repair the relationship with the BCCI – while Lorgat remains chief executive?
It is a key imperative for us to restore our relationship with the BCCI and I am a firm believer that, as long as we keep talking to one another and keeping the channels of communication open, we will see light at the end of the tunnel.
We live in a constantly changing environment and we can certainly draw on our own experiences over the past 20 years as a nation where huge hurdles were overcome to achieve reconciliation.
What is Lorgat accused of doing by the BCCI that upset them so much?
It is difficult to put a finger on that one and I certainly don't want to comment on what is a sub judice matter until the ICC has completed its independent investigation.