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Lorgat stumps Cricket SA

Many of the most important decisions taken in post-isolation South African cricket have, understandably, been made with little understanding of their long-term impact and importance. A double decade of isolation had left the country with an equal measure of enemies and lack of influence in the global game.

That changed with remarkable speed thanks to the hard work of the United Cricket Board's early pioneers, the performances of the national team and a necessary willingness to sacrifice a certain amount of self-respect in organising and agreeing to tours that were not in the team's best interests but served to heal severe wounds and build strong links with old adversaries.

That history of administrative well-meaning (some called it subservience) began to disappear as South Africa gradually regained its place among the game's elite – but has regressed significantly in the past three years, with the lack of a unified administration being exploited by the other diners at the head table.

The International Cricket Council's recently released 10-year plan for global events does not include a single one of major significance for South Africa, unless you are a particular fan of the under-19 World Cup.

Next week, finally, Cricket South Africa (CSA) will begin the interview process for a new chief executive. The four candidates are Denver Hendricks, Bheki Shongwe, Murphy Morobe and Haroon Lorgat. They all have merit.

Hendricks is a professor at the University of Pretoria and has cricket experience on a variety of committees, anti-doping being one. Shongwe recently stepped down as managing director of Kaizer Chiefs, a position that clearly requires a high degree of business acumen. Morobe's record as chief executive of Kagiso Media is outstanding and this, coupled with the advantage of an "outsider's eye" and a background of anti-apartheid campaigning, would leave him well placed to make some hard calls.

Right thing
Lorgat, however, is the candidate who stands head and shoulders above the others. Four years in charge of the ICC fortified him with an invaluable understanding of the way the world's cricket politicians operate – and he never backed down when he believed they were out of line, which Indian administrators often were when it came to money.

The then president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), N Srinivasan, was constantly irked by Lorgat's insistence on doing the "right thing" and became incandescent with rage when Lorgat insisted on an independent audit of stadium capacities before the 2011 World Cup. Numbers supplied to the ICC were well below previously published figures and Lorgat was uncomfortable with the shortfall. It was just one of many "Lorgatisms" that irked Srinivasan.

Since Srinivasan's enforced removal from the BCCI presidency in the wake of his son-in-law's alleged involvement in Indian Premier League match-fixing with Srinivasan's franchise, the Chennai Super Kings, much has changed. Former BCCI president IS Bindra wrote to the ICC deploring Srinivasan's attitude towards Lorgat and his potential role as head of CSA.

In March this year, CSA independent director Norman Arendse confirmed Srinivasan's objection to Lorgat's potential employment by CSA and could not deny that India's end-of-year tour to this country might be curtailed from the current  bloated schedule of three Tests and seven one-day internationals should Lorgat be appointed.

Bindra, meanwhile, was so committed to undoing the damage done by Srinivasan that he contacted CSA officials to encourage them to make their own free choice of leader. It may have come too late. Or perhaps not.

Outstanding candidate
When CSA's recruitment agency presented its shortlist of chief executive candidates five months ago, it was a very short list indeed. Lorgat's was the only name on it. Only after a request to widen their search did further names appear. The main target, Steve Elworthy, former national all-rounder and current England and Wales Cricket Board commercial director, was unavailable. With Lorgat still not an option at that stage, the search reached deadlock – until Srinivasan's demise.

CSA's first acting chief executive, Jacques Faul, was unwilling to accept the way his vote was "expected" to go. His successor, Naasei Appiah, may have been more willing to accept the "status quo" as prescribed by the ruling elite. Either way, South Africa's influence in international cricket hangs in the balance. Heavily intimidated by the BCCI, CSA faces the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of rands if it stands up to the BCCI's "informal" directives.

There can only be two reasons for Lorgat's late inclusion on the list. The first is that he is the outstanding candidate with skills and experience that no others can possibly match. The second is that his omission from the list would be too embarrassing for the CSA board to manage when the new man is appointed.

For those unable to imagine the importance of this appointment, just imagine Pinocchio taking charge, or any other puppet figure. And then imagine who might be in charge of the strings – and the string-pullers.

Zany cricketer bowls his last

Cricketers tend to be either excessively earnest or excessively self-regarding but somehow Chris Martin, the New Zealand Test cricketer who retired last week, managed to be neither.

If anything, Martin was excessively goofy – a fast bowler who could affect a bright white headband, rather like a 1970s tennis star or squash player, and do so with a certain zany panache.

As a fast bowler, Martin ran to the wicket not with the smooth grace of, say, a Waqar Younis, but with the cogs-and-levers awkwardness of some machine or industrial object still achieving perfection.

He seemed to take his 233 Test wickets through toil and the application of intelligence rather than any innate talent or ability. The fact that he was the least natural of cricketers could be seen in his batting. It was the wrong side of useless, worse, by some way, than Glenn McGrath’s. Eventually he passed 100 runs in his 70-odd Tests.

Throughout it all he was able to poke fun at himself in an interesting and mildly touching way. His humour was both sophisticated and homely; it was, in other words, very New Zealand.

Absolutely petrified
I will always remember Martin for his performance in the Springbok Park dressing room in 2002, where the Proteas were playing Stephen Fleming’s New Zealanders. The Test was the first home Test after the Hansie Cronje affair and the press made much of the blindingly obvious – that the match was being played in Cronje’s hometown, although, of course, the disgraced cricketer was nowhere to be found. As a result it was played in an atmosphere of some hostility, the South Africans playing not only their visitors but also the press corps.

Allan Donald duly went to 300 Test wickets, Fleming scored a masterful 99 and Mayhaya Ntini took six for 66, his first five-wicket haul in Tests.

When Martin’s turn to bat approached he chain-smoked, paced up and down in the small corridor next to the press seats and looked absolutely petrified. The dressing rooms and the press facilities in Bloem are close together and Martin’s teammates were happily larking about at his expense while he smoked himself into a stupor.

Martin was fully human in other ways. He had a quaint, almost old-fashioned turn of phrase and a lovely domestic rootedness. He once told a journalist that if you take too much notice of what’s written about you, you are liable “to get a little bit of static in the head”. We all know a few of those, now don’t we?

Martin was a cult figure in a landscape of cartoon heroes. I for one will miss him.

Stats snapshot: 233 Tests wickets at 33.81; 123 runs in 71 Tests at 2.36, with a highest score of – wait for it – 12 not out. – Luke Alfred

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Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp works from Cape Town. Talk and write about cricket,golf and most sports. Executive Coach. Cook for the family when at home. Neil Manthorp has over 27405 followers on Twitter.

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