Proteas captain Faf du Plessis (L) and Hashim Amla (R) are an integral part of the South African cricket team. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

It is not common practice to admit to having watched the movie Titanic more than once. 

Giving up three hours of one’s life is a mistake anyone can make, but any more than that is considered questionable around most braai areas.

But, that great ship's untimely demise had its lessons, even if it took forever for some of them to sink in. Some of those teachings resurfaced to this cluttered mind this week, as the fate of South African cricket over the next 18 months became an agenda.

It is a tricky time to be in charge of cricket in South Africa. Change is afoot, and most of that is off the field. Sure, the one-day series against India has gone worse than anyone may have envisaged. 

But that is not South African cricket’s biggest problem. The struggles against spin, the inability to contain a rampant Virat Kohli, and even the threat of the worst one-day series defeat on home soil are all small fry compared to the iceberg that the administrators are hurtling towards.

As we learnt in the Titanic, even people who claim to be able to smell danger from afar - be it ice, broadcasting issues or player deals - can sometimes get their calculations wonky. 

That kid who promised he could smell ice cost the gleaming Titanic its life, assisted and abetted by those who wanted the grand vessel to go ‘full steam ahead’.

If you look back at the doomed, maiden voyage of the T20 Global League, you may see where this is going. 

Anyway, back to the lessons we gleaned from that doomed Leo and Kate fling.

Top of the agenda, of course, is that the captain of a vessel must try and map out the path ahead as swiftly as possible. 

The calmer the waters, the smoother the ride and, the happier the passengers. 

The ship that currently occupies our attention has a stand-in captain at the helm, and he has already shown that he will take on some unchartered seas, by tearing apart the revenue deal CSA has with the players.

You would think that the example recently provided by Cricket Australia and its ‘employees’ illustrated that player-power is no passing storm. It is a genuine tug-of-war, because players have realised that there is no product without them.

Far more than being mere ‘employees’, they are in fact shareholders. Partners, even. 

You piss them off at your peril, especially when they are likely to be the lifeblood of the next attempt at a prestigious  and expensive  T20 tournament later this year.

And yet, the message from CSA is that global icons like Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada and Hashim Amla are just pawns on a corporate chess-board.

And, what is more, they will do exactly what the king says.

That hard-nosed stance ended with Australia’s Test side taking up that South African tradition of folding arms and going on strike, forcing Cricket Australia to reconsider. The administrative bloody nose was acknowledged as a watershed moment.

The likes of the West Indies and Pakistan have long paid the price for not giving their players some sort of equity, and you can find many of their finest talents dotted around the world, revelling in an era of an open market.

The BCCI already line the oceanic pockets of their players lavishly with crores and crores of broadcast percentage lucre. Just as Cricket Australia do.

The suits who are richly rewarded by the game in this country would do well to steer clear of a confrontation with players over money and value. Much like that fated vessel and the unflinching ice of 1912, it is a collision that only has one winner.

You would hope that, in 2018, the captain of South Africa’s cricket ship would rather avoid any unseemly collisions, amid a sea of uncertainty.

The heart might not go on this time...


Sunday Tribune

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