Graeme Smith on strained relationship with Australia, and time for ICC to step up
JOHANNESBURG – Graeme Smith has demanded stronger leadership from the International Cricket Council to prevent the sport from shrinking to the extent where only three teams play it seriously.
Cricket SA’s Director of Cricket also described the relations between CSA and Cricket Australia as “strained,” following the latter’s decision to cancel next month’s tour by its men’s team. Cricket Australia cited concerns over the bio-secure environment, despite CSA’s bending over backwards to try and accommodate CA’s demands.
“There’s an effort from (CSA’s) side to engage, and set up a meeting, more at board level. But more than anything the ICC needs to have strong leadership,” said Smith, saying the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the sport, has highlighted the gap between the “haves and have-nots.”
“The game needs leadership and to understand the complexities (around the pandemic). I don’t think world cricket wants three nations competing against each other in ten years time. How does that benefit the game? It doesn’t. That will amplify the (T20) leagues, and leagues will get bigger and bigger. And the rest of the member nations will have little to no content. The leadership at the ICC need to address this.”
Smith pointed to the current international calendar and how the ICC’s Future Tours Programme - which was an attempt to structure the international calendar and ensure balance in terms of tours - was thrown out of sync by the pandemic.
“The FTP is going to be hugely challenging, with potentially eight ICC tournaments in eight years, an extended IPL and a lot of the calendar dominated by India, England and Australia. It makes it extremely challenging for the rest of the member nations. When things happen, like happened with Australia, then it amplifies that stress on nations like us, and the other members that are looking for good content. It’s a bunfight out there at the moment.”
Steps have been taken to try and reschedule the three Test series with Australia, but those talks are still in the very early stages. “For us it is important it happens in the calendar cycle. We’ve had some initial engagements with Cricket Australia, it hasn’t been positive in terms of trying to find a window, we are working hard on it.” The current FTP cycle ends in 2023.
Smith added that a numbers of plans were in the works to get the Proteas men’s side playing during winter. “(CSA’s) operations team is working really hard trying to sort out the winter programme which I expect to be very busy, certainly for our men’s national team. There’s a lot of cricket to come.” Smith said potential series’ against the West Indies (rescheduled from last year) and Sri Lanka were being planned, while India is also set to tour here at the end of the year.
The Proteas will next be in action against Pakistan, for a series of limited overs matches in April. The Pakistan Cricket Board agreed to the addition of an extra T20 International for that tour, which could impact on the availability of some of the Proteas for the Indian Premier League.
Smith said no decision had been taken about releasing South African players to the IPL, for the entirety of that tournament.
“We’re still awaiting dates on the IPL. We need to invest in SA and cricket and that needs to come first; but it’s more complex. We have over the years made a commitment to the IPL to release our players.” Who will be released and exactly when they will be released will be subject to “robust debate,” between Proteas management and the national selection panel Smith added.
*Meanwhile the Proteas will tour Ireland to play three One-Day and three T20 Internationals in July.
It is the first time the Proteas will tour Ireland for more than one game, with their only other visit being in June 2007 when they played an ODI in Belfast.
“We are extremely pleased to have finalised the dates as quickly as we have and for that we would like to thank Cricket Ireland for their cooperation and willingness to adapt the tour schedule as we continue to finalise our winter programme,” said CSA’s Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith.
Schedule: South Africa Men’s Tour to Ireland
1st ODI Malahide, Sunday, 11 July
2nd ODI, Malahide Tuesday, 13 July
3rd ODI, Malahide Friday, 16 July
1st T20I Malahide, Tuesday, 20 July
2nd T20I, Stormont, Thursday, 22 July
3rd T20I, Stormont, Sunday, 25 July