Graeme Smith wants to be part of Cricket South Africa’s solution
JOHANNESBURG - Cricket South Africa (CSA) faces a critical few weeks leading up to its September 5 annual general meeting, and rather than run away from the plethora of problems the organisation is facing, director of cricket Graeme Smith wants to be part of the solution.
That may rub many people, who feel Smith is a big part of some of the problems, the wrong way, but the sentiments the former Proteas captain expressed on a range of topics at the weekend, should be seen in the context of trying to make the sport in this country better.
Smith believes that while there are many good people within the organisations, there is also cabal intent on creating chaos, whose motives aren’t clear.
“I think it’s been a cancer from within the organisation for a while and it’s not getting any better,” said Smith about leaks to the media.
“You try and sit and work out who in senior positions in this organisation is doing this, and why? What is the end goal? Is it serving cricket? It’s quite clearly someone in a high-profile position, whether it is in the business part or the board part, because some of the stuff being leaked can only be from those parties within the organisation and that’s disappointing,” he added.
“It doesn’t help cricket, it doesn’t help us build relations, it doesn’t help us put our right foot forward. We’re an organisation that spends all our time talking about these other things instead of the game of cricket.”
Smith pointed to critical issues CSA must confront around it’s financial state, the plight of the men’s national team - still the sport’s biggest money-maker in this country - and critically transformation, which has been top of the agenda in recent weeks.
Lungi Ngidi’s thoughtful reply to a question about the Black Lives Matter elicited a tranche of often heartbreaking tales about how transformation in South African cricket was more about words and little about deed.
Smith bore responsibility for his own role in that.
“The awareness around that is something I didn’t have,” he said as part of a response to a question about former teammate Makhaya Ntini painfully outlining how he’d felt isolated within the South African team during his playing days.
Ntini spoke about eating dinners alone and choosing to run from the hotel to the stadium when the team was on tour, so that he didn’t have to sit by himself in the team bus.
“I was taken aback by the Mackie stuff,” said Smith. “When I played with him I certainly never felt he was a silent person. He was already one of the senior players in the side when I joined.
“Culturally, as the only Black African player it must have been tough for him.”
Smith and Ntini have spoken subsequently. “We had an open discussion. We listened, we shared; there are certainly no hard feelings at all. It’s about being able to hear each other, talk to each other, communicate and find a way forward. I feel like myself and Mackie have done that. There’s no issues between us.
“I know Makhaya’s son (Thando) is making his way through the system and it’s important that no-one else feels this way going forward.”
Smith has thrown his full weight behind CSA’s Social Justice and Nation building project, which will include the appointment of an ombudsman to deal with the injustices ex-players may have suffered. “Hopefully, everyone involved who’s sharing their story has no agendas and wants to be part of the solution and to create a better environment.”
As for the political machinations within the organisation - that’ve used his appointment to illustrate that an old boys club is taking over the sport - Smith said years of playing have toughened him up and will help him deal with those targeting him.
“I was fortunate or unfortunate that I captained for a long time, so I’ve formulated ways of dealing with the stress and the public pressure that come with being in a high-profile job.”
There are good people within the organisation, who Smith says motivate him to continue in his role to hopefully improve CSA and the sport in general in the country.