Stuart Hess.
Top to bottom, left to right, Cricket South Africa needs to ask itself questions. It needs a brutal and honest interrogation about whether the organisation is doing good for the players, the coaches, the sponsors, and, of course, this country’s supporters.

The national men’s team, the most watched cricket team in this country and still the primary source of income for Cricket SA, endured their worst World Cup in history in England. The team played poorly; they weren’t prepared properly and as a result, the future of the game in this country is at stake.

It can’t only be that it’s the coaches and players who are at fault either. The 7-0 series loss by the SA Under-19 team against their Pakistan counterparts, and the failure of the SA Emerging team - that contained a few players with T20 International experience - to qualify for the final of a triangular series involving a local combined universities team and a touring Sri Lanka squad, points to faults that are systematic.

Throw in the failure of the national women’s team at last year’s T20 World Cup and it’s clear that CSA’s administrators - from the Board of Directors to the Members Council, made up of all the provincial union presidents - need to ask themselves some very tough questions.

How much of the blame for the malaise the sport finds itself in currently is their fault? Certainly, the Proteas aren’t responsible for a forecast debt of R654 million. Nor are they responsible for a poorly arranged T20 competition that made no money (in fact, costing close to R100 million), nor are the players responsible for the mess about restructuring the domestic game.

CSA has received a number of reports over the years about how to improve the franchise system, but the recommendations in those reports have remained words on paper, with petty politicking too often holding sway over sound decision-making.

As a result, you can’t imagine CSA’s administration having the kind of clear thinking that their England counterparts displayed after that team’s disastrous World Cup in 2015, when the appointment of Andrew Strauss as Director of Cricket and the leadership he showed in prioritising the ‘white ball’ formats has culminated in the England men’s team making it all the way to the World Cup final four years later.

It requires a certain strength of conviction to carry out such a strategy and nothing in CSA’s administration in recent years suggests it has the personalities capable of doing so - not unless it benefits its own little fiefdom. Too much of CSA administrative thinking still involves protecting little provincial pockets when the game has long since moved on, and operating at a global level is the only means to survival for the sport.

The failure to get South African players back from the Indian Premier League was another example of the ‘soft’ leadership at the helm of CSA, which made it rich of the federation’s chief executive to call out the country’s players for not being tough enough after the Proteas’ World Cup exit.

Dealing with the IPL or any other T20 league that pays in dollars and pounds will be a critical area the CSA Board has to develop a strategy for.

The board will host a meeting on July 20 to pore over the World Cup failure and also decide the future of coach Ottis Gibson. Given his mandate - to get the Proteas to the final, at least - it is hard to see how Gibson could stay, but it will also be critical that the board understands its own responsibility in the mess that was the 2019 campaign.

CSA is going to appoint a Director of Cricket and that looms as a crucial position. Corrie van Zyl, speaking as CSA’s representative in the absence of chief executive Thabang Moroe and president Chris Nenzani when the team returned from England, said the Director of Cricket would be responsible for all national teams.

Given how Strauss worked with England, that person would also have to develop a clear strategy for the men’s team going forward. Strauss targeted the World Cup and everything in English cricket was directed towards achieving that goal.

There’s a good example for CSA’s administrators to follow. Do they have the courage to do so?

@shockerhess


Sunday Independent

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