January 14, 2015

'Still don't understand why the BCCI was upset with me'

Haroon Lorgat talks about CSA's rocky relationship with the BCCI, his career in cricket administration, and transformation in South Africa

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Subash Jayaraman: Your last first-class season was in 1991, which was when South Africa got reintegrated into international cricket. How did your experience as a player influence you as a selector and then as an administrator with South Africa and the ICC?

Haroon Lorgat: I was fortunate to play at the first-class level. You understand the makings of a player, you understand what makes players excel, what sort of coaching staff you need, what sort of playing surfaces. All of the experiences of being a player help and gives you a particular perspective when you are on the administration side. That playing experience, coupled with the fact that I had trained as a chartered accountant, has done a lot to help me administer the game.

SJ: In terms of the sociopolitical conditions of that time, and what South Africa has become as a nation, and also a cricketing nation, what has your experience been?

HL: I often felt that those of us who were regarded as disadvantaged - meaning black people - actually understood the game in the broader sense because we had the benefit of knowing both our own experiences as well as of those who were advantaged. So we knew about the [Graeme] Pollocks and the [Barry] Richardses and [Eddie] Barlows and about the rest of the privileged cricketers, whereas the white people may not have followed our sports. So they were disadvantaged to the extent that they didn't have any knowledge of black cricketers. So if you ask what influence it had, I understood both sides of the divide, and that placed me in a much better position to understand the social, political and other issues that surround our cricket through this whole transformation of the game in South Africa.

SJ: What has led to the paucity of black Africans in South African cricket, who are a majority in the population? Why is it that they are not taking to cricket as much and what is Cricket South Africa doing to get them into the sport?

HL: I think it is a natural goal to have the team representative of the populace. But it is not that easy, because once you select players into the team they are in it for a 10-15 year career. So whether you take the likes of Graeme Smith or Jacques Kallis, or even Makhaya Ntini for that matter, Shaun Pollock, all those have come through a system. You couldn't replace one with a black African so easily. You need a player to come through the system.

Those black Africans who were coming through the system at an early age were disadvantaged through social circumstances. It was very difficult for them to have sustained their growth in the game and looked after their families. They have to go out and work. Between trying to educate yourself, playing the game, and going to work, something has to give. And the sacrifice invariably was the sport, because the family expects you to bring the food on the table, educate yourself. That made it very difficult for them to progress to the highest level of the game.

"I have even offered to apologise [to the BCCI] if I am told what I'd done wrong" © AFP

SJ: And what is Cricket South Africa's plan to attract that 80% of the country to watch the game and play the game?

HL: We have introduced a number of initiatives. I think of particular significance is the education trust that we have introduced. We have got two of our sponsors who have cottoned on to that - Sunfoil Education Trust and the Momentum Trust to provide scholarships for these aspiring black African players in particular so that they can educate themselves and have enough funding to also sustain themselves in the game of cricket. Hopefully then we will see some of that paying dividends. When we did some assessments a few years back, the dropout rate of particularly the black African players was higher than the white players. That indicated that we got them at the lower levels but we were not able to retain them through the system so that they could ultimately end up in the Proteas team.

SJ: Is it a valid idea to have a Test Championship when not all cricketing nations have a chance to play against every other Full Member nation? Whereas, in a T20 or 50-over World Cup you have the pathway for the Associate nations to eventually get to the World Cup.

HL: I believe yes. I don't think it is an excuse not to have a championship if not all can be participating in it. The reality is that we have ten Full Members playing. So why can't there be a Test Championship for those ten Full Member teams? And the rationale was, we needed to sustain Test cricket. We needed to create something that would retain interest in Test cricket. We started with the rankings. You can argue that there is far more value to the Test rankings than in years gone by. It means something to be No. 1, it means something to be in the top three or four. A part of the thinking was that the top four would qualify to play in the Test Championship.

SJ: You commissioned the Woolf report to look into the ICC's governance structures. Looking back on it, what's your take on the initiative? Do you think it has had any influence in how cricket is being governed, especially at the highest level?

HL: It is something I have got little or no influence on now. I left at the time when the report was concluded and it was for that board - the new board - to have considered it and implemented it. I can say that a lot of the principles are being implemented in South African cricket, and the success is there for all to see. I still believe in those principles. I believe in the role of independent directors on the board, and you can ask anybody in South African cricket and they will tell you the value that it has brought to cricket in the country.

SJ: But its original goal was to clean-up the ICC governance structure. Are you disappointed?

HL: As I said, there was no influence that I had on that, there is nothing that I can do about it. I left it to a board that followed me - chief executive and a president that followed. Those who were in the office at that stage, it was for them to decide which way they want to do it.

SJ: N Srinivasan became the ICC chairman in July despite the Indian Supreme Court's order telling him to step aside as BCCI president. What sort of example does it set for cricket's governance everywhere - not just within that board, but everywhere around the world?

HL: I would rather reserve my opinion because it is a Supreme Court matter. It is a matter that's being dealt with at the ICC level. There are codes of ethics, there are all sorts of structures there that have to deal with it. There is a board of directors that will deal with it. I am not serving on that board of directors.

I think it is not an ideal situation. It is a thing which is, regrettably, being dealt with in the Supreme Court now, and we will let the process take its course.

"I do foresee weaker countries struggling in the future, if not already. Because there is a disparate spending of money and it not going to the countries that need it most" © AFP

SJ: When the position paper on the ICC revamp was leaked, there was a strongly worded statement from Cricket South Africa where the words of the great Nelson Mandela were invoked. It was said that it was unconstitutional and undemocratic. However, [CSA president] Mr Chris Nenzani had a chat with Srinivasan in the corridors of the ICC meeting and everything was suddenly smoothened out. What happened there?

HL: There were several changes to the initial proposal. If you study the proposal that was initially floated and what was subsequently accepted, it was very different. When several of the initial proposals were removed and changed to the satisfaction of Mr Nenzani, that is when South Africa entered the debate.

SJ: One of those changes was the ExCo members being increased from three to five. But still, three permanent members and they have the veto - it is not a democratic system in any sense of the word. How could Cricket South Africa sign up to it?

HL: I think you need to appreciate that there was a lot of debate and discussion. There was a sense at a particular point that the initial proposals were completely not acceptable. Where it got to, Mr Nenzani said that is not a perfect situation. But we are prepared to engage now and see what we can do going forward.

SJ: Is it a case of each to his own, as in Mr Nenzani and you where your main responsibility is to cricket in South Africa and you needed to do whatever you had to do to ensure that South African players' future is guaranteed?

HL: It is part of the considerations - it is not the only consideration - because the initial proposal was something we were not ready to accept. But when it got to a certain point of being amended, it was not perfect but it was something that we were prepared to go with. I think those questions are more relevant to the powers that are in command today because effectively there are three countries who have a strong role to play in the leadership of world cricket.

"Those black Africans who were coming through the system at an early age were disadvantaged through social circumstances. It was very difficult for them to have sustained their growth in the game and looked after their families"

SJ: As someone in charge of Cricket South Africa, are you happy with the situation that we are in?

HL: Are you talking about in terms of world cricket? I can't say I am happy. I don't believe that the revenue split is fair on all the countries. But we have to accept what we have got.

SJ: Is there scope for change in the revenue situation?

HL: I would personally hope so. In my view, there should be support for the weaker countries. We should grow the game across the world, but that is what is being accepted. We have got the model now. We have to live with what we have got and cut our cloth accordingly. I do foresee, more than Cricket South Africa, other weaker countries struggling in the future, if not already. Because there is a disparate spending of money and it not going to the countries that need it most. But we are doing the best we can with that context in mind, and so far, we [CSA] are in a great space as far as cutting our cloth, and it is according to the revenue that we have got.

SJ: When you have a financial model where the rich get richer, and there is not sufficient support for the weakers ones that absolutely, desperately need it, that it is not a sustainable model. Do you think there is going to be a crossroads for cricket not too far in the future?

HL: I think that's a matter for the ICC to consider. They are the custodians of the global game. There are people in those leadership roles who must look at it and see whether the game can sustain and grow.

SJ: You were the subject of an ICC inquiry arising out of statements that David Becker, former legal head at the ICC, made about the functioning of the ICC board, FTP etc. You were cleared of all wrongdoing. What did you learn from that process and what is your side of the story?

HL: I am not sure I can answer what I learnt from the process, but it was a necessary process. I was accused of some wrongdoing. I voluntarily subjected myself to that investigation because I thought it was necessary. Of course, at the end of the day, I knew what the truth was, and I was vindicated by the inquiry.

"The amended position paper was not perfect, but it was something we were prepared to go with" © Getty Images

SJ: The inquiry report is not in the public domain. Could you state some of the facts of the inquiry that cleared you?

HL: That I was not responsible for the allegations made against me, which was that I was party to a statement that David Becker had issued. So the inquiry was quite clear that I had nothing to do with it. I was accused of something, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was accused of something I didn't do.

SJ: There were a lot of issues around India's tour of South Africa in 2013-14. During that, you had voluntarily stepped aside as chief executive of CSA-

HL: Only in so far as the dealings with the BCCI.

SJ: The negotiations between the boards went on. In that sense, the BCCI did not have issues with CSA but it seemed that they had issues with you.

HL: I clearly don't understand what the issues are. I think that is more relevant to be ascertained from the BCCI.

SJ: So you or the other negotiating parties of CSA were not made clear as to what issues the BCCI had with you?

HL: Nobody could tell. Not even my president is aware of what the issue is, what the wrongdoing is. So we are all in the dark as far as that is concerned.

SJ: And [BCCI] has made no attempt to clear up that stuff after that, because the tour went on?

HL: The tour went on, and there have been attempts to get together. But I can't tell you what the issue is that upsets them about myself.

SJ: You made a press statement that you will work on bettering the relations with the BCCI. How do you intend to go about it, and what is the relationship like now?

HL: Well, we must wait. Time can heal things. I have even offered to apologise if I am told what I'd done wrong. If I think it's wrong, I must apologise, that'd be the right thing to do. But until I am told, there is nothing I can do.

SJ: What are your goals for South Africa and how long do you plan on serving as an administrator with CSA?

HL: My goals would be the same as any chief executive of any Full Member nation's board would have: to have the best team in the world, to be able to produce a sustainable system that is economically viable, to have a strong domestic set-up, to have great commercial partners, and we are fortunate that we are succeeding in those at the moment.

We have also got an added issue of dealing with transformational matters. I think we have done well in that sense. We haven't reached a point where we are satisfied with what we have achieved to date but it would be fair to say that we have made good progress in that regard. To sustain a cricket system that can produce the best cricket players in the world is what I'd hope I can deliver.

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