Strong character needed for Proteas selection convenor, says Hussein Manack

Proteas limited-overs coach Rob Walter (centre) may have to contend with a selection panel going forward. Photo: AFP

Proteas limited-overs coach Rob Walter (centre) may have to contend with a selection panel going forward. Photo: AFP

Published Apr 11, 2024


SELECTION in sport almost always sparks debates in any country, but when it comes to South African cricket, the debates are often heated for various reasons.

When Independent Newspapers learnt that Cricket SA is currently in talks to possibly change the existing selection structure – one which effectively put Proteas coaches Shukri Conrad (Tests) and Rob Walter (limited-overs) as the sole selectors of their teams this past year – it was clear that this was going to be an impactful decision.

It is understood that CSA is considering going back to having a convenor of selectors and a selection panel to assist the coaches in selecting their squads, and that this new structure and its personnel would be announced next month.

Although both coaches enjoyed success in their first year in charge of the two set-ups, partly because of the personnel that they selected in their teams, there were alternative options that the coaches could have gone for.

With Walter’s ODI side, Ryan Rickelton had been a consistent performer in domestic 50-over cricket, but was somehow not in the side that played India this summer.

In Conrad’s Test side that toured New Zealand in February, wicketkeepers Sinethemba Qeshile and Rivaldo Moonsamy were leading the run scorers’ list in first-class cricket, but were overlooked for Clyde Fortuin, who perhaps wasn’t the best available option according to domestic form.

This is where the selection convenor, the selection panel and independent selectors can come into play.

They advise the coaches of alternative options, request insight from the coaches on the reasons behind their selections and make decisions that would then give both the coaches and the board reasonable satisfaction.

Former Proteas national selector, Hussein Manack, told Independent Newspapers that selectors often play an important role, and that there is generally room for such figures in any set-up.

“You generally want to give the coach the team he wants, because the coach really is the man who in the end is going to have to live or die with the team – he’s accountable. But I think it’s about asking him questions that he perhaps did not think about,” Manack said.

“I think there’s an important role for a selection panel, because it can be very helpful to coaches. It offers the coaches an outside view.”

Manack added that ideally the convenor of selectors needs to be an individual with a strong character, one who has played the game at a decent level, and with sound experience as a selector.

“On a very odd occasion, you could have a situation where there’s a total disagreement (between coach and selectors or the board),” he continued.

“It’s important to have a reasonably strong character (as selector). I think you need to be your own person. I don’t think it helps if that individual is a weak individual in that the coach always gets the team he wants, because then there’s really no point.

“If you are presenting the coach with different views and options, then you can come up with a team together and come to some agreement.

— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) February 23, 2024

“You may not agree totally with each other, but you would have at least triggered some thought process, and presented questions that his coaching staff might not have asked.

“It’s important to have an individual that also understands the bigger picture, how to build relationships and how to put all that together. It’s important also that you get along in the end, and that there’s a healthy respect.”

The new selection structure will most likely be a long-term commitment, which means it will possibly be employed in the 2027 ODI World Cup that will be hosted across South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

It was announced yesterday that the SA host venues for the 2027 edition will be the Wanderers (Johannesburg), SuperSport Park (Centurion), St George’s Park (Gqeberha), Kingsmead (Durban), Newlands (Cape Town), Boland Park (Paarl), Mangaung Oval (Bloemfontein) and Buffalo Park (East London).