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.

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham

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


Workers’ R60m ‘lost’ in banks scam

An asset manager, VBS Mutual Bank and a Namibian bank have put the retirement funds of 26 000 municipal workers in South Africa at risk

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Lekwa municipality won’t answer questions about why children died in...

Three children are dead. More than a dozen homes have been gutted by fires in the past six months. And, as...

Press Releases

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.