Hats off to Jennings, and his successor

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iol spt apr27 Jennings Gallo Images/Anesh Debiky Unsurprisingly a lot has been made of the decision not to offer Ray Jennings a new contract to coach the SA under-19 team.Photo by Anesh Debiky / Gallo Images

Unsurprisingly, a lot has been made of the decision not to offer Ray Jennings a new contract to coach the South African Under-19 team.

Corrie van Zyl, Cricket South Africa’s general manager: cricket (a position that places him at the top of the tree as far as playing affairs is concerned) admitted he was expecting a public backlash over the decision.

Frankly, though, a lot of that criticism has bordered on the ridiculous (one commentator on a social media platform called the decision not to renew Jennings’ contract “moronic”), some of it, not surprisingly in this country, was marginally racist.

Being at the helm as the under-19 side won the World Cup certainly gave Jennings a strong hand when he met with Cricket SA’s interview panel, which, it is understood, had some 20 applicants for the position.

Jennings was among the finalists considered, but the panel chose Lawrence Mahatlane.

Jennings, a passionate man, felt aggrieved, as anyone would in his position.

But amidst all the vitriol spewed on talk radio shows and on social media platforms, very little (if any) consideration was given to whether Mahatlane was the right man for the post.

For the most part questions centred on why Jennings was fired (he wasn’t) and how Cricket SA could justify that decision.

As far as justification was concerned, most reckoned – lazily – that Cricket SA’s decision was overwhelmingly political, in a sporting climate that recently has been thickly clouded by the verbosity of the short-sighted Minister of Sport.

Mahatlane has been involved in the coaching structures of Cricket SA for close on 20 years.

He was among those recognised years ago as being what could be loosely termed a “development product”.

He served his time as the SA Under-19 team’s assistant coach at two World Cups (2002 and 2004) working alongside/under the late Hylton Ackerman and then the current senior national coach, Russell Domingo.

He was head coach of the under-19s for two tours, has worked with the SA A-team, the Gauteng Strikers, was Dave Nosworthy’s assistant with the Highveld Lions and has latterly been working with the High Performance department at CSA.

Mahatlane has all the credentials needed for a position like that of the SA Under-19 coach.

Jennings, in an interview this week with the SA Press Association, said: “Lawrence is a good guy and I have no problem with his appointment.”

Mahatlane has certainly served his time in South African cricket. The fact he’s not been elevated to more senior positions sooner was largely down to internal politicking at CSA and at Cricket Gauteng.

Surely now was the right time to elevate him to a senior post? Jenings offered to mentor a potential successor should he be offered an extended contract, but given Mahatlane long service in the game, why should Cricket SA have to agree to that?

Jennings had held the position for eight years, taking over at a time when the structures for the Under-19 team were far from stable.

He’s to be commended for creating proper structure and enabling this year’s group of players to achieve such noteworthy success.

At the same time, under Van Zyl’s watch, Cricket SA has also restructured its High Performance methodology, that includes an improved data-base about playing and coaching resources in the country.

Having spent so much time improving his own coaching ability, Mahatlane was deemed good enough to take over a senior post.

Cricket SA, which had spent a lot of time enabling him to become a coach, and having gone through what Van Zyl described, as a” transparent interviewing process,” clearly felt he was.

There is no point in South Africa, whether it be in the business sector, the arts or sport, training young black folks to achieve senior, authoritative positions, and then not allowing them to fulfil those posts when they are ready.

In Mahatlane’s case, he’s more than ready. - Sunday Independent



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