Greener pastures for Arthur, Rajah
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Two of my favourite people in cricket moved on to new challenges this week.
Down Under, Mickey Arthur became Australia’s new coach and Goolam Rajah stepped down as the national team’s logistics manager.
Both men played significant roles in South African cricket in recent years; Arthur making the national team one of the best in the world and helping them to achieve historic successes in 2008, while Rajah was a rock behind the scenes, doing the dirty work that ensured the players’ minds were clear to focus on cricket.
Rajah’s was virtually a life of sacrifice. It was he who travelled to countries weeks before the team toured to ensure hotels were in order, that they had the right kind of food, transport was worked out, where the laundry could be done etc.
Heck, if the players wanted to go out shopping, Rajah would have a bus organised to transport them to and from the hotel. Anything they wanted, Rajah got ... toothpaste included. He was like a sprightly yellow pages.
Even those of us who have been fortunate to tour with the team have taken advantage of Rajah’s expertise, whether it’s leaving your luggage outside his room so that it travels to the airport on the team’s luggage truck, or acquiring cellphone sim cards in the subcontinent, Goolam was the man to talk to, and he would inevitably solve the problem.
Where Rajah worked behind the scenes, Arthur was very much at the forefront, but he didn’t necessarily like it that way. In fact, he always felt the players deserved the praise. South Africans rather cynically reckoned he was soft; ‘Mickey Mouse’ some called him, mistaking his gentlemanly public demeanour and believing the players rode roughshod over him.
Arthur was a tough man, he made hard calls – go back to October 2007 and the decision to drop Shaun Pollock for an example of that – and if any episode proved he could stand up for himself it was the bruising two week battle he had with former CSA president Norman Arendse in February 2008 about the make-up of the national side. It was a battle Arthur won.
In conjunction with Graeme Smith he refined the players and constructed the plans which led to those glorious triumphs in England and Australia three years ago.
He has a lot on his plate with the Australian job as it also requires that he forge a style that will be adopted by the State sides too.
Arthur will love the challenge, throw himself into it, and be tough to the men tasked with carrying out the plan, while maintaining that gentlemanly touch with the public.