WATCH: Cricket’s in my DNA, says acting CSA CEO Kugandrie Govender
There is another “KG” making waves in cricket and her task is greater than taking the new ball for the Proteas. Kugandrie Govender - Cricket SA’s first female acting chief executive - has the unenviable responsibility of steering Cricket SA’s ship out of the stormiest waters imaginable.
Zaahier Adams caught up with her this week in the first face-to-face interview since Covid-19.
1. How long did you have to think before accepting the job?
I didn’t think about it too long or too hard. If I did, I probably might have answered differently (laughs). It was quite a quick decision for me actually.
2. What is your first cricket memory?
Playing in the backyard with my two older brothers. I grew up in a cricket-mad household. It’s in our DNA I guess. On Sundays we would go to the grounds and watch my brothers play. I went to my first B&H game at Kingsmead and that’s when the bug really bit. The atmosphere at that game made me realise that I just had to be a part of this game. I never knew what the future might hold, but I made a big career choice purely on what I felt that night.
3. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in an Indian township. My kids think it’s insane that I went to an all Indian school with all Indian teachers. They don’t quite understand how that all works. I actually received a message this week from my matric teacher telling me how proud she is of me. That was probably the first time I got emotional.
4. From the outside Cricket SA appears to be in chaos. What is the atmosphere like on the inside?
I think from the inside it is a bit confusing. The staff work incredibly hard and we’ve had quite a successful year. We have just had an unqualified audit. We have just sold some incredibly important headline sponsorships. The company is doing well on the inside, yet on the outside it seems chaotic. My job is to bridge that gap and make South Africans see the good work that is going on. I am not going to hide from the fact that the relationships that are broken are part of the chaos. Inside the organisation things are not as chaotic as one might think they are with us being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
5. Do you feel that having been appointed by Thabang Moroe there is a stigma attached to you?
Thabang did appoint me. However, I am my own person and while he did make the appointment, it’s not a fair judgement to make. I was appointed in April. I worked with Thabang until early December. It is now August and another eight months have gone by and I haven’t worked with him during this time.
6. Were you involved in the revocation of the five journalists’ accreditation?
I think that is one of the most regrettable things that I’ve had to go through. Having a media background myself, it wasn’t something that I would have had endorsed on any level. No, I was not part of that. I think I was part of the healing process after that. I think the whole relationship with the media suffered as a result. A big part of that job is healing that. It should never have happened.
7. There's pressure on the CSA Executive Board to resign. How do you view the September 5 AGM?
I think it is a hugely critical day in South Africa’s cricket history. It will hopefully be the beginning of a new era where we can begin focusing on the game again.
8. Do you have a mentor?
Recently, I have been looking towards someone who has been in cricket for 23 years. A gentleman called Campbell Jamieson. He is incredibly experienced having worked for the ICC and Cricket Australia, which is significant because of the demographics and similarities between the two nations. I’ve spent a lot of time with him probably over the last four to five months.
9. Director of Cricket Graeme Smith has often said “cricket people need to run cricket”. How do you feel about this statement?
Graeme and I have had to work on our relationship, but I think it’s in a good place now. Graeme needs to understand that CSA is behind him and I think he does now. We had some good conversations this last week even. I think his perception that ‘cricket people need to run cricket’ is something that is shared by a lot of cricketers and it’s not something that we can put solely on his doorstep. I think there is an element of that which I would agree with. You do need ‘cricket people’. But Cricket SA is a non-profit company, which means it’s a company that needs to be run by business people. My perspective is that you need a mix with good corporate people to ensure the cricketers can do what they need to do.
10. Black ex-players and coaches created a storm on social media regarding allegations of racism at CSA. How will you address their concerns?
I think our black ex-players are feeling an incredible amount of hurt. And where there’s hurt, people just want to express their pain. I think they haven’t had an opportunity to be heard. I think they haven’t had an opportunity to express what they’ve gone through. I think we need to offer them that at the very least. We can’t go back in time and save the world but we can offer an empathetic ear and just listen. We can say sorry. From one human being to another. I think as every South African that has been a victim of racism, that has affected them in this way.
11. Does Michelle Obama’s famous quote “When they go low, we go high” resonate with you?
I think Michelle Obama just as a human being resonates with me. I think she is a phenomenal woman, but I think particularly as a female in this male dominated role that is frequently undermined as a result, I’ve had to draw from that Michelle Obama’s sentiment because it is not a case of ‘eye for an eye’ for me. Instead I need to rise above it. It is about the delivery for me. Perhaps I am going to put something on the table that no man has ever put on the table up to now. There is an element of empathy in a female-driven organisation that can’t be denied.
12. “Black Day” was your initiative which was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid-19. How important is it that gender-based violence is highlighted particularly in a South African context?
‘Black Day’ was an initiative that I started last year. It came to me as an idea in terms of what we could do to use our voices as Cricket SA to address something that is beyond a social ill. It is a scourge that has taken over our society. Our numbers are five times higher than the global average. This kind of insanity is just something that has to stop. It has to stop in our time. As Cricket SA we have to use the massive platform that we have to raise awareness for this. We decided to put together an annual marquee event for the Proteas Women and put a good cause to it. We have seen the amazing effects ‘Pink Day’ has on the nation. People just turn up in their droves. I wanted to create the same kind of vibe around ‘Black Day’. I wanted to create that because I wanted to turn the spotlight on the South African man because you have to stop hurting our women. If we can do that through something they love, which is cricket, then hopefully we can save even one life, it would have been worth it.
13. What was the feeling when you lost Standard Bank as a commercial partner and how hard has it been to attract potential new sponsors during Covid-19?
It was very disappointing to lose Standard Bank after an accumulated 18 years in cricket. I think the ending of the relationship with Standard Bank was due to numerous factors. It also probably just ran its course. It was devastating to lose them because they were a solid partner in all manners. It is going to be very hard to replace them, not just in a monetary sense but just how they viewed the game. We have signed up a headline sponsor for Tests and ODI during Covid, which is the first time since Sunfoil in 2009. It is hard during these times because people are adopting a “wait and see” approach because we don’t know how long this is going to carry on.
14. Former acting chief executive Jacques Faul was credited for repairing the relationship with the South African Cricketers Association. How do you view CSA’s relationship with Saca?
I would credit Dr. Faul 100% for bridging the relationship. Since then I’ve had good conversations with Andrew (Breetzke, Saca chief executive). I think it is like all our relationships, we need to rebuild the trust again.
15. How close is the Mzansi Super League to securing a sponsor and television deal?
The headline sponsorship is 99% sold. The broadcast sponsorship is dependent on what happens with Covid, due to the timing of how we fit it into the FTP (Future Tour Programme). We are going to need the international players.
16. The Proteas Women’s team’s tour to the UK was recently cancelled. Are you concerned about the impact Covid-19 has had on the women’s game?
I am doubly concerned when it comes to the women. I have been in constant consultation with the government’s adviser. But as South Africans we need to adhere to government regulations.
17. South Africa is set to host the next T20 Women’s World Cup in 2022. After the success story in Australia this year, is South Africa capable of staging an event of similar magnitude?
I think South Africans have proven that we know how to throw a party. I think 2022 is going to be no different. I think the performance of our Proteas team over the last few years will ensure that South Africans come out and support them.