Home Sports News CSA’s senior management are out to discredit Graeme Smith and the organisation

CSA’s senior management are out to discredit Graeme Smith and the organisation

CSA must ensure that Graeme Smith receives full, unequivocal backing

There were concerns over the depth of talent in South African cricket and it was widely accepted that a fresh start under new leadership was needed with a clear path forward identified.

Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) director of cricket (DOC)  Graeme Smith sat in front of the country’s sports media and revealed that, in recent times, he has had to consider his future with the organisation.

The Proteas’ greatest Test captain of all time believes that certain sections of CSA’s senior management are out to discredit him and the organisation, using the media in an attempt to fuel certain internal agendas.

The betterment of cricket, Smith says, is the sole reason he got involved with the national set-up but, presently, he is not convinced he can do his job to the fullest of his ability.

“It’s very easy to get caught in the noise, the chaos around you and the emotion and I keep having to revisit why I got involved,” he said.

“When I joined in December it was chaotic and it’s feeling chaotic again.”

On 23 June last year, after losing to Pakistan at Lord’s, the Proteas became the first major cricketing nation to be eliminated from the 2019 World Cup in England.

It brought the curtain down on a disastrous tournament for the South Africans – arguably the worst in their 27-year history at the 50-over global showpiece.

Coach Ottis Gibson never survived, Faf du Plessis would step down as ODI captain and South African cricket was desperate for renewal.

At that point, it was hard to imagine things getting much worse, but they did in the months that followed as Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) administrative wheels came off quite spectacularly.

Under the leadership of now-suspended CEO Thabang Moroe, CSA’s relationship with the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) deteriorated to the point where the latter took the former to court over what it said was a lack of transparency in the financial detail surrounding a proposed domestic restructure.

SACA would also go on to claim that it was owed R2.5 million by CSA over the use of commercial player rights dating back to the 2018 Mzansi Super League.

After the World Cup, Moroe announced a new structure that saw Gibson’s head coach role replaced by a team director (Enoch Nkwe), while there would also be a DOC (Corrie van Zyl).

Both of those roles were filled on an interim basis initially, with Nkwe leading the team on a daunting trip to India which saw them outplayed in all departments to go down 3-0 in the Test series.

Nkwe, just 36, had achieved success in one season as Lions coach and his appointment was naturally greeted with raised eyebrows by many sections of the South African cricket community down to a perceived lack of experience.

The new model had its merits.

After the World Cup, the need for a DOC was more obvious than ever.

There were concerns over the depth of talent in South African cricket and it was widely accepted that a fresh start under new leadership was needed with a clear path forward identified.

Moroe began the process of courting Smith, luring him towards the DOC position, but in November 2019 Smith publicly distanced himself from the role because of the uncertainty that was surrounding the CSA leadership.

CSA had placed the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) under administration only to lose once the matter went to arbitration, three senior CSA officials were suddenly suspended without much clarity given as to why, the accreditations of five South African cricket journalists were revoked and Standard Bank announced that, due to the administrative ongoings at the organisation, they would not be renewing their deal as the title sponsor of the Proteas men’s team.

After an emergency special meeting, president Chris Nenzani announced that Moroe had been suspended and without a full-time coaching team and in administrative ruins, South African cricket had hit rock bottom.

With Moroe gone, Smith finally agreed to put pen to paper in early December and joined as interim DOC ahead of the summer England series. Jacques Faul was named acting CEO while Mark Boucher, Smith’s long-time Proteas friend and team-mate, was handed the head coach position on a full-time basis until the 2023 World Cup.

It is easy to forget just how dire the situation was at that point, and the arrival of some familiar Proteas legends in key leadership positions provided a sense of calm and stability at a desperate time.

It wasn’t enough to stop the Proteas going down 3-1 in the Test series against England, but in the limited overs series that followed against England and Australia, there was enough to be encouraged by under Boucher and Smith, who went on to make his position as DOC permanent.

Now, in the middle of a global pandemic and an emotionally-charged Black Lives Matter campaign, the CSA leadership has gone back to putting out fires off the field.

Question marks over the appointments of Smith and Boucher, and of Jacques Kallis and Paul Harris as consultants, have been used as ammunition against Smith in suggesting that the DOC has handed out “jobs for mates”.

Makhaya Ntini’s public revelations of the loneliness and exclusion he felt under Smith’s leadership during his Proteas playing days have also seen Smith taking heavy shots in the media.

With Moroe’s disciplinary process still not wrapped up, there is a good chance he could return to the role after Faul leaves on September 15, and while Smith says he will be prepared to work under anyone, that will provide an interesting and potentially testing new dynamic.

September’s AGM will also see the highly criticised CSA board given a chance to reshape and Smith is crying out for more cricketing intelligence to have a seat at the table.

Regardless of who the new president or CEO is, though, holding onto Smith and Boucher must be considered a priority right now.

In Smith, the Proteas have at their disposal a man who has led the Proteas to success before. From a cricketing perspective, it must surely be understood that such success came with an intellect that can only be beneficial to the fragile national cause now.

More than that, Smith is one of the most respected figures in international cricket. His successful career as a commentator and broadcaster since retirement has seen him travel the cricketing globe, building on his already strong relationships with the powers that be in all parts.

That international standing should not be underplayed in assessing Smith’s value to South African cricket and it was almost solely responsible for landing a three-match T20 series against India, in South Africa, that will net the troubled CSA coffers something in the region of R190 million.

That deal, in all likelihood, would not have been struck without the relationship that Smith has with current Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) boss and former opponent Sourav Ganguly.

It was due to take place in August and was postponed due to Covid-19 but it remains a potentially massive pay day for CSA with India understood to remain committed to the series.

In October 2018, CSA publicly announced a projected loss of R654 million over the next four-year cycle. That number is likely to be significantly higher now given the loss of sponsors, the fact that two low-key Mzansi Super Leagues have lost money and, of course, the impact of the coronavirus.

Stability and inspiring confidence and trust from the rest of the cricketing community is key for CSA right now, because it is ultimately those deals and tours with the “big three” of England, Australia and India, as well as the relationship with the ICC, that will keep money coming into the South African game.

CSA has taken steps to act in the wake of Black Lives Matter, and Smith has vowed to be as closely engaged with that process and the actions of the Social Justice Committee as is allowed.

There is also merit in the argument that the Proteas leadership is too white, and Smith must internalise that criticism and show progress as he continues on this journey.

The Proteas must facilitate transformation and become a side that is more demographically representative of the country. Equal opportunities must be provided. Black lives must matter, equally.

Smith and Boucher have a responsibility in that regard and if they fail to deliver, they must be held accountable.

But, with no cricket on the go, they cannot simply be the victims of relentless attacks that are void of real substance. That doesn’t progress cricket in any constructive way.

The appointments have been made and they have received backing, again, from Nenzani who has confirmed that they were approved by the board and that the correct processes were followed.

What is more important now is that South African cricket presents a stable, united front and begins to plot the way forward. They need to be successful on the field and off, and Smith is key to achieving both of those.

If not him, then who?