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Cricket South Africa’s Board of Directors called national selection convener Andrew Hudson into their special meeting on Wednesday and then hauled him over the coals for the lack of Black African representation in the national side – however, it would have been better had they been holding up a mirror to themselves.
It’s been their dilly-dallying and petty politicking which has led to the lack of Black African representation in the national side. When it’s convenient for CSA administrators they bring out the “transformation” card because they perceive that it makes them look better.
The fact is, when it comes to CSA’s administrators, the transformation topic is only used as a convenient smoke-screen. This week that smoke-screen was to hide their own incompetence and deviousness as they set about ignoring the recommendations of the government-appointed inquiry chaired by Judge Chris Nicholson last year.
There are some critical decisions facing Cricket South Africa in the next six months, one of which will have great significance for transformation and specifically as it relates to widening the pool from which Hudson and his selectors will pick players.
The debate within CSA circles about expanding the franchise system has been taking place for years. One proposal is for the addition of one or two more teams; another for a return to the old provincial system with 11 teams. The latter proposal has its supporters in that it will return cricket – especially the lucrative domestic T20 matches – to some of the smaller venues and unions. The trouble is, it dilutes the standard of competition.
The current six-team franchise system has certainly benefited the national side, in that a tougher domestic competition has prepared players better for the Test arena – Vernon Philander being the best example of this recently.
As strong as the system is though, there is a reservoir of talent below the current franchise level that needs to be tapped into – those tasked with South African cricket’s high performance development often refer to it as a “bottle-neck”. Expanding to seven or eight franchises would allow those players at the “amateur” level to be exposed to franchise cricket.
That would naturally provide the selectors with a wider pool from which to pick players, while maintaining the standard of play which has made the national team such a strong one.
So why hasn’t the expansion occurred yet?
Actually, the late Kader Asmal chaired a committee in 2008 recommending to CSA that the franchise system be expanded to eight sides. Nothing happened because CSA’s officials couldn’t effectively divide up the financial pie. Never mind compromises, the fact is provincial presidents, who make up the board, couldn’t make a decision lest it impacts on their own well-being – cast your vote the wrong way and you may lose out on a Test.
Which is why it was so critical that such a decision be taken by a board with a strong independent quota with no vested regional interests – a board with a 5-5 split between independents and non-independents, for example, would have been able to do so, but of course CSA rejected that kind of structure.
Expanding by one or two franchises would be the right move for the new board to make. However, with the board now weighted in favour of the non-independent sector and with an expansion to 16 members coming 18 months after the February 2 AGM, expect more petty in-fighting and political palm-greasing to play a central role in whatever decision is made.
There is a faint hope that the independent board members – one of whom will be Norman Arendse – will ensure that any decision is made in the wider interests of SA cricket and not narrow provincial ones.
But can that happen when they’re not in the majority? - Saturday Star