South African cricket seems stumped for solutions

 

 

Winning the Rugby World Cup had an odd side-effect: it got us talking about cricket again. In hushed whispers perhaps, but talking nonetheless.

We avoided the difficult conversations as long as we could but the celebratory Springbok bus left behind a bothersome question after it passed through our cities: Why not the Proteas? After all, South African rugby was coming off a couple of appalling years when Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi moved into their respective leadership positions. A betting man might even have wagered that the bat and ball would bring more cause for celebration come the 2019 holiday season.

But now that the time has arrived, there is nothing at all to celebrate. A worthless World Cup and Test tonking in India have left no doubt as to just how dire the situation is on the field. What’s even more troubling is that there isn’t anybody or anything appearing on the horizon to save us.

So, how exactly do we fix our game? It’s a question that is not easily answered — especially when the root cause is not obviously apparent.

“I think the rot is deep. For those of us who love the game, it’s a real worry,” says Ashwin Desai, author of Reverse Sweep: A Story of South African Cricket Since Apartheid and the first stop on the search for answers. “If you look beyond the Proteas’ performances — just look at South Africa A or our Under 19 teams — it’s been horrendous. And I think that, ironically, cricket was always seen as ahead of rugby. But I think the new leadership of CSA [Cricket South Africa] has really been bean counting when it comes to transformation in the most insidious ways that will hurt the game.”


The bean counting Desai is referring to is an inquiry CSA launched after the Cape Cobras seemingly violated the transformation policy for domestic cricket. For a match in October, the franchise fielded seven black players — one more than the required number — but selected only two black Africans, one less than stipulated.

In the broader picture, it’s just one of many incidents that have accumulated, resulting in a great deal of scrutiny of CSA. The organisation has undergone much change in recent years and the constant flux shows in every inconsistent action and perpetual dilly-dallying.

“I think that [the issue is] the uncertainty that it brings to the player at the moment,” Proteas legend Allan Donald says of the sport’s struggles. “What is in store for us? Where are we heading? What plans has CSA got for us to move forward as a cricketing nation?”

“This is an extremely proud cricket nation … For me right now, I’ve really got that feeling of uncertainty — that players are uncertain. They don’t know what’s going on. Whether they’re going to be around next year … are we going to have provinces? Are we going to have franchises? We don’t know.”

Undoubtedly, the disarray in domestic cricket requires immediate redress. Confusion and mismanagement has long reigned over attempts to establish a global T20 event to rival the Indian Premier League or Australia’s Big Bash.

The disorientation has also incited a fully fledged civil war between CSA and the South African Cricketers’ Association — which represents professional cricketers — over what it claims are unfulfilled agreements relating to Mzansi Super League commercial deals. CSA has again called for a “road map”, promised in August, to be released to clarify the body’s stance on a number of issues.

At present, that seems about the best idea anybody can come up with. It’s clear that certainty and direction are rare resources — a scarcity that endangers our aspirations. One might understand why CSA would want its own T20 cash cow but this edition has also sapped rest and preparation time from the players who will be expected to perform against England in December. Be sure to spare a thought for the fast bowlers, who have hammered on continuously and failed to bowl out India even once in three Tests.

“We can’t just put our heads in the sand and say things will come right after some natural process,” Desai says. “Are CSA sensitive to managing a very different cricketing environment to even 15 years ago? Have they really had those kinds of think-tanks to say that the terrain is changing?

“And then are we taking cognisance of this changing scenario globally in cricket? It doesn’t seem to be like that,” Desai adds.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

Related stories

Fear and uncertainty grip sports due to Covid-19 outbreak

Bankruptcy? Quarantine centres? SA’s sporting bodies are facing their greatest-ever challenge

Where will neoliberalism end?

LONG READ As the world was overtaken by upheaval last year, one photo emerging from the uprisings depicts...

Cricket SA’s myopic new hierarchy

The English Tests have offered some promising performances but there’s little reason to be excited about the future of the Proteas

Amakhosi chasing proud history

Kaizer Chiefs top the table in their 50th year, but there are some worrying mishaps that must be stamped out if they are to keep it that way

How Schalk Brits built his fantasy

The Springbok hooker built his long career on his ability to adapt — and will likely do so again now that he’s finally retired from rugby

Protea implosion – What do SA’s cricketing men live by?

The past year has been CSA’s annus horribilis
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Finance probe into the Ingonyama Trust Board goes ahead

The threat of legal action from ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya fails to halt forensic audit ordered by the land reform minister

Ailing Far East Rand hospital purchases ‘vanity’ furniture

Dr Zacharia Mathaba, who purchased the furniture, is a suspected overtime fraudster and was appointed as Gauteng hospital chief executive despite facing serious disciplinary charges

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday