JOHANNESBURG – Cricket scribe Stuart Hess pens his wishes for change in the new sporting year.
Cricket South Africa’s Administration
It has been an utter shambles since the administrators ignored the recommendations of the Nicholson Inquiry. In 2020, once the various forensic audits and management inquiries have been completed, that’s where Cricket SA need to return.
Don’t listen to Sascoc (that body needs to properly implement the recommendations of a commission of inquiry set up in 2018 first, before they can be viewed as a legitimately-run organisation). Get some clarity, honesty and accountability back into the organisation.
CSA would do well to keep Jacques Faul on board for longer than six months as CEO. He has run the Northerns Cricket Union so effectively that in the last five years, CSA have recognised them as the best run union in the country.
It’s not hard, but there are members of the current board who feel they have done no wrong, which is staggering, given what’s gone on in the last 18 months. Those people need to be removed.
Cricket SA are in crisis, as Faul said recently. Their financial position is very concerning also, but it’s not fallen completely off the cliff.
Cricket remains popular and companies are keen to invest, should the leadership be right. There is another opportunity to get things right. Cricket SA must take that opportunity.
It’s been a bad year for the senior men’s, senior women’s and Under-19 Boys team. There is no point in denying it - the administration has had an effect.
We saw as much in India, where the decision to install Enoch Nkwe as an interim team director was poorly made.
An inexperienced team were hammered in three Tests, and the lack of communication with Faf du Plessis over the T20 captaincy was disgraceful.
The men’s senior national team remains the face of the sport in this country, and so it needs to be successful.
Hence, interim director of cricket Graeme Smith is focusing so much of his attention there in his first few weeks in charge.
The Under-19s have a World Cup at the start of the New Year, and their form in 2019 suggests they won’t make much of an impression.
The Proteas women also have a World Cup early in the year, in the T20 format in Australia and, while they have plenty of players capable of taking them deep, they seem to have reach a plateau as a team, and are in need of a new voice.
Success would be welcomed from any of them, but a lot of hard work is required to create sustainable excellence.
Will there even be a Mzansi Super League in 2020? The financial situation in which CSA find themselves suggests that the tournament should be pulled, unless a sponsor comes on board and provides major financial backing.
The domestic review, which Dave Richardson is conducting, is looking into whether a return to 12 teams is worthwhile. That inquiry of course is taking place while the SA Cricketers’ Association have taken CSA to court to try to halt it.
The 2020/21 season will still be played with the current six-franchise system, but what then after that?
It should remain as it has benefited South African cricket greatly, but perhaps more domestic matches should be played away from the large ‘traditional’ venues and at clubs grounds or in the townships.
It would help with upgrading facilities in those regions and perhaps create some sort of ‘atmosphere’.
It would also help if the four-day matches were broadcast online. There is a lot of interest, and while TV can’t accommodate four-day cricket, there is no reason it can’t be shown via live streaming.
Can someone break the hold of the ‘big three’ in men’s tennis? Daniil Medvedev got very close in the US Open last year before succumbing to Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard and Novak Djokovic shared the majors between them in 2019, with Roger Federer twice having chances in an epic final at Wimbledon against the Slovak to win a 21st major.
Again, there will be questions about how much longer he can continue to challenge at the highest level in 2020?
But what most fans will want to see is more of a challenge from the likes of Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zvevrev.
On the women’s side, the field is wide open. Four different players won the majors, and there were breakthrough performances for teenagers Coco Gauff and Bianca Andreescu.
Of course, the big question in the women’s game - as it has been for the last two years - is: can Serena Williams get her 24th major? For those who say she should pack it in, it’s worth remembering she has made it into more major finals than any other player in the last two years.
The Basketball Africa League will start in March, and is a significant step not only for basketball, but sport in general on the African continent.
Basketball may not be a big sport in this country, but throughout Africa, it rivals athletics and football in terms of popularity.
The National Basketball Association in the United States is giving wholesome support to the new league, as has former US president Barack Obama.
Africa has already supplied some very big stars to the NBA - Joel Embiid at the Philadelphia 76ers and Pascal Siakam at the current NBA champions the Toronto Raptors the foremost among those.
It is anticipated that the new league will accelerate the growth of the sport in Africa and the creation of more stars to dominate the world stage. Hopefully South Africa can get on board soon.