VINCE VAN DER BIJL: Proteas lay down leadership marker for rudderless Cricket SA
How breathtaking was that series win against India? Dean Elgar’s team slew the world’s No 1 team.
This young Proteas team found their mojo and played with a maturity beyond their years after losing the first Test quite tamely. That was a test of character, leadership, skill and teamwork. The Proteas have experienced the true meaning of ubuntu and have gained their fierce team loyalty despite the claustrophobic Covid-19 bubble environment and other disturbing distractions. It was an astonishing achievement.
The journey started at the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup tournament with blunt conversations around the Social Justice and Nation-building Commission (SJN) submissions, with accusations against Mark Boucher. Then the Quinton de Kock refusal to take the knee was handled by Bavuma in a statesman-like way. It was a seminal moment in his leadership journey. The Proteas gelled and won the next three matches.
The India series victory, similarly, was achieved against all odds and despite many distractions. The Proteas’ fragile batting line-up stood their ground against a world-renowned bowling line-up. They could chase smaller-than-usual targets due to the extraordinary efforts of the bowling attack, brilliantly led by Kagiso Rabada. Seldom has an attack performed better and more consistently throughout a series.
The determined, gutsy and blunt leadership of Elgar led the way. This gladiator never buckled against the fierce Indian bowling attack. He captained superbly on and off the field. Behind the scenes working tirelessly was the excellent coaching group under Boucher, equally known for his never-say-die approach. The Proteas were in good hands.
This environment allowed Keegan Peterson and Marco Jansen the confidence to blossom. This is a team that is building capacity, belief and an exciting future. The team unity was an unexpected consequence of the continued bungling of the board and the members’ council over the last two years.
Never before has a firm hand on the tiller been more essential as Cricket SA wallow, listlessly relying on individuals to carry the flag
It is time now that the suits follow their example and demonstrate similar leadership and character. Cricket SA have been without a permanent CEO for more than 18 months. Never before has a firm hand on the tiller been more essential as Cricket SA wallow, listlessly relying on individuals to carry the flag. This is an urgent matter.
I have purposely kept a respectful distance from the SJN since its inception, expecting the report to guide us towards a more nonracial environment. The report’s findings, however, have created more division with its “tentative” yet damning, untested judgments on key former Protea giants.
However, the voices of anguish have been heard and are a stark reminder of how painful racism is. Clearing the way to a nonracial cricket society will require education and a clear strategy from top to grassroots. What an opportunity. It is time to have real face-to-face conversations at all levels. This should include our well-known cricketers and coaches, past and present, conducting workshops in all cricket communities, pro bono. This giant task was handed back to the Cricket SA board by the SJN.
Answering the following question might assist the board in their decision: how would the late Desmond Tutu handle and resolve this issue? Answer that and solutions will emerge.
As a start, open conversations with the Proteas teams are a necessity to give the board a proper sense of the current reality. The Proteas have seemingly forged a “rainbow nation” team, under duress. That is what made the series win so glorious.
Only the players and their support team really know, though. Their views will reveal whether the Proteas have found the answers of transforming to a more nonracial environment. If that is the case we need these methods to be shouted from the rooftops. Cricket SA should begin the process by meeting Bavuma and Elgar. The captains and then the teams will assist the board’s deliberations and decisions.
The two matters of a permanent CEO and developing the new nonracial SA cricket environment require visionary leadership. No company can forge its future through board proclamations and pronouncements only.
That is what started the Cricket SA problems in the first place. We desperately need good governance, clear strategies and a strong executive. The Proteas have done their part. Now it is up to the board.
• The news of Cricket SA charging Mark Boucher on the eve of the ODI series against India has leaked out, but it was too late to change this column. Perhaps the only silver lining is that the matter will be dealt with in a proper legal process.
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