VINCE VAN DER BIJL: More change needed at SA Cricket to save the sport
President and his deputy must step aside and allow more effective leadership to take the body forward
Cricket in SA is making encouraging strides forward, owing to a number of fine appointments that have added experience and gravitas to the executive and coaching managers and staff.
One key change required, remains untouched. The president, Chris Nenzani, and vice-president, Beresford Williams, must step aside to ensure that the leadership of the Cricket SA board play their rightful role as strategic direction finders, leaders in governance and directors of general policy for SA cricket.
Cricket is a serious professional business. It has wide financial global reach and the power of sport can unite nations, inspire youngsters, change attitudes and integrate diverse groups. The diverse support from fans in Paarl, Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom in the ODI series against Australia clearly illustrated the role of sport in developing a rainbow nation.
Cricket in SA needs people of gravitas leading the game at the top, the right people. These roles are not there to reward past service to the game. The appointments need to reflect the qualities, experience and skills required. Importantly, the incumbents need to understand the long-term consequences of decisions made.
Decisions taken by the presidents and chairs alter the course of the game. Nenzani did just that in 2014 when he, against the recommendation of his board, voted to allow the Big Three (Australia, England and India) to have increased financial benefits and domination of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
That altered the world game, on an almost irreversible path, to the detriment of cricket in SA and all other nations except India, England and Australia. That is the importance of decision making at presidential level.
Let’s be clear, standing aside is not abject failure. It is the acknowledgment that others can do a better job.
Many decades ago, I stood down as Natal captain to make way for Mike Procter, even though we had won a unique double two years before. Under Procter, we immediately won the Currie Cup and had a wonderful year. Procter was a better leader for the team and Natal. I did not slink off in disgrace but rather cherished his and our success.
Look at the Proteas team, shifting forward at a considerable pace owing to the change of coaching and executive leadership. The coaching staff with Mark Boucher and Enoch Nkwe at the helm have improved all aspects of the team.
Death bowling, controlled batting and improved spinners are notable examples. Professionally equipped coaches with experience of international cricket and the respect of the players has made that difference. As have the selectors.
Jacques Faul and Graeme Smith have brought experience, knowledge and strategic drive to the professional game, and these appointments need to be made permanent, as soon as possible. They have brought too, along with the coaches, the base ingredients for success, something that has been sorely missing for some time: trust and respect.
Most importantly, this new outfit needs the support of a president and his vice of similar standing.
It should be noted that the two remaining independent directors, Marius Schoeman and Prof Steve Cornelius, are working tirelessly to change the narrative of Cricket SA and encourage sponsors to come back to the table and be involved.
In the past few months business leaders have spoken openly and boldly for a change of personnel on the board. Standard Bank, a flagship sponsor for more than a decade, is not renewing its sponsorship. A heavy blow indeed!
The appointment of the three independent directors to the remaining vacant board positions can complete the overhaul. They need the requisite skills to add value to the board and assist the strategic direction of growing the sport in SA.
They must represent all the demographics of SA. The board needs to be able to bind our divided nation into one homogeneous cricket family to help heal the past and surge forward. Yet the current leadership at board level sits immobile, ignoring the noise and cries around them. Players, fans and sponsors have spoken.
The captain of the Dragon School U13 cricket team, from Oxford, UK, wrote a critique of their recent visit to Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele, a township outside Cape Town. He wrote that while the players of both sides were initially uncertain in each other’s company, they were soon enjoying themselves, playing and laughing together. “They say that sport is a language everyone can understand and here we were, actually speaking it.”
It is time the Cricket SA president and vice-president listened to the language, heard the voices, understood the message and stepped aside. For the sake of our cricket in SA.