Mental Health issues have recently loomed large in cricket’s spotlight, with Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski turning their back temporarily on the game. The theme is well-grooved, with Jonathan Trott, Shaun Tait and Marcus Trescothick all having suffered from cricket-related demons of one type or another over the years.
Trickier to identify by far is systemic institutional malaise, although suspicions are that Cricket South Africa (CSA) is now an organisation flirting with a nervous breakdown. Such a situation was inadvertently confirmed this week with Graeme Smith’s withdrawal from CSA’s recently advertised Director of Cricket role, with his statement requiring the kind of careful analysis that would have done most forensic pathologists proud.
Taking to social media on Thursday afternoon, Smith confirmed his love of the local game but also admitted that he had been “frustrated” with CSA in a conversation that began approximately 10 weeks ago.
Sources in the know were less diplomatic. “He’s basically been jerked around from beginning to end,” said one.
Smith would have added much practical value to the role but his authority could have meant so much more at a time when CSA have little or no credibility. Alone amongst the three other candidates – Hussein Manack, Dave Nosworthy and Corrie van Zyl are the others – Smith offers recent international experience and a hard-nosed approach that would have sat well with the current bunch of under-performing Protea players.
He would also have demanded “support and freedom”, however, to “initiate the required changes” – and clearly there was no appetite to give him such a mandate. The Director of Cricket role reports directly to the Thabang Moroe, the CSA Chief Executive, and there obviously weren’t enough assurances that Smith would be left to make those “required changes” as he saw fit.
We can only assume, therefore, that the new structure around the national team is less to do with optimising performance, something the drifting Proteas desperately need, and more about control for Moroe and his increasingly large number of cronies.
Indeed, Smith’s withdrawal is a strangely self-sacrificial gesture, in that it has exposed the lie that currently resides at the very heart of South African game.
Clearly the sport is no longer about international performance. More important is the establishment of Moroe’s kingdom of cronies and the entrenching of his megalomania. Two upcountry provinces, for example – the Central Gauteng Lions and Easterns – are both suffering from governance lapses, poor leadership and persistent in-fighting, with Moroe or his intermediaries having a hand in the appointment of under-qualified chief executives at both provinces, Mpho Seopa at Easterns, and Jono Leaf-Wright at the Lions.
While Smith’s withdrawal required reading between the lines, Van Zyl’s situation this week was more straightforwardly weird. Van Zyl, whose loyalty to the organisation has never been questioned, whether serving under Gerald Majola, Haroon Lorgat or Moroe, currently occupies the Interim Director of Cricket role.
He, remember, is suspended, along with Naasei Appiah and Clive Eksteen, although this didn’t prevent him from interviewing for the Director of Cricket position. The situation as it stands, therefore, is that the suspended Interim Director of Cricket interviewed this week for the Director of Cricket role, which he might (or might not) get because he is suspended.
Should he get the role, now that Smith doesn’t want it, and given that he already has it (in an interim capacity) he will have to have his suspension suspended, which will raise questions of why he was suspended in the first place.
On the other hand, should he fail to secure the role he will rightly point out that he was once given the position and argue that things can’t have changed so radically that he is now deemed incapable of filling it.
I wouldn’t want to be CSA’s Human Resources director at the moment, although the current incumbent has apparently been hospitalised because of stress-related illness. We shouldn’t be surprised to learn that his replacement – possibly temporary, possibly not – reports directly to Moroe.
In the same staff memo on Tuesday, Moroe insisted: “All use of CSA credit cards is to stop immediately.”
Just another week in the non-stop wacky world of CSA.
Readers presumably aren’t unduly concerned with behind-the-scenes intrigues, although it is interesting to note in passing that Van Zyl (and to some extent, Appiah) were the very people who were best-placed to deal with CSA’s legal defence in the action the SA Players’ Association (SACA) brought against them in the High Court in June.
They, however, are suspended, so cannot do so, which suggests that CSA are only too happy to pay the punitive costs the court rules they should when they lose the case – which they will in all likelihood do.
Again we see what Smith complained about. Operational drift and confusion, as SACA continue to insist that CSA provide them with the financial figures upon which they base their decision to re-structure the first-class game as from next season.
SACA have, of course, ensured that their members get very handsomely paid for the second edition of the Mzansi Super League (MSL), which started just over a week ago. It is too early to say anything definitive, although the form of the holders, the Jozi Stars, has been poor, and the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and the Cape Town Blitz have played with sparkle.
There’s also been some humour. On Wednesday, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, playing for the Tshwane Spartans, was run-out at the non-striker’s end by a direct throw from the Giants’ Junior Dala. Although it didn’t matter much, given that the game was abandoned with the Spartans four wickets down, he was run out because he is carrying too much weight and has the turning circle of a super-tanker. Presumably he will not be offering any of his healthy Mzansi cheque back either to the Spartans or to CSA.
Given the Smith developments, the Van Zyl farce and the suspension of all credit cards, CSA could presumably do with the extra cash.