South Africa news July 23, 2013

Broken, no, but holes to fill at CSA

It may be on a sound financial footing but in terms of relationships with supporters there is work to be done for Haroon Lorgat at CSA

"There is no broken business." That was the only defiant statement at Haroon Lorgat's unveiling yesterday and it was uttered by someone who should know. Louis von Zeuner is one of CSA's independent board members and is also a banker. From his vantage point, there is nothing ailing CSA and when browsing the books it's hard to argue with von Zeuner's assessment.

Over the last two years, CSA has signed an eight-year broadcast deal with Taj and Willowton TV worth R1.5 billion (US$150 million). The last revenue figure they released was after the 2010-11 season when they reported a record R727.4 million (US$72.74 million) income. They have high-profile corporate sponsors attached to each of the three formats and all domestic competitions so financially, CSA is strong and healthy.

But a business is not only about money and that is what von Zeuner forgot when he made his declaration. A business is also about relationships and at the moment, CSA's most important one is fractured.

The South African public still harbours suspicion towards the organisation, justifiably so in the aftermath of the bonus scandal, which revealed a lack of corporate governance in the body and the continued series of PR blunders which followed. CSA has not done a good job of explaining things to the people they should be accountable to - the supporters - be it the delay in appointing a new CEO or whether a player has passed or failed a fitness test and so they have earned nothing but circumspection. It is Haroon Lorgat's job to change that.

Just the fact that he was appointed is a good start for CSA's beleaguered reputation. In Lorgat, CSA has picked a familiar and trusted face. He spent almost a decade working in various positions in South African cricket before appointed ICC boss. His rise is an example of how a traditional cricket-person - Lorgat is a former allrounder with a decent record - can combine corporate acumen.

He is the only convenor of selectors since readmission to leave the job with the same amount of respect he had when he started it. Perhaps he was lucky in that the choices he had to make were not as confusing as the crossroads other convenors stood in front of, particularly when it came to established players and transformation.

In Lorgat's era, Makhaya Ntini was at his peak and Herschelle Gibbs' allegations of a Graeme Smith-Jacques Kallis-Mark Boucher-AB de Villiers cabal were not fully formed (de Villiers was only a rookie at the start of that period) or released. But he also made brave decisions like dropping Boucher in late 2004 and giving Hashim Amla his debut the same year and that added to his stature.

His time at the ICC did the same. South Africans are proud that one of their own headed up world cricket's governing body. They see Lorgat as a man of great prestige. The other side of the story - the one which alleges Lorgat was skating on thin ice towards the end of his tenure - has not reached these parts. And Lorgat's battles with the BCCI are considered a case of the Indian board flexing their muscles against a man who was strong enough to stand up to them.

It's no secret that some view the BCCI as a bully because of their money and influence. When, in March they voiced their concerns over Lorgat's bid for the CSA job, it came with a threat of a possible pull-out of their upcoming tour. The BCCI's beef was believed to be because of some of their old baggage with Lorgat, emanating from disagreements at the ICC, but South Africans saw it as unwarranted interference. That CSA appointed Lorgat regardless of the BCCI's concerns has been received as an act of bravado. CSA has been congratulated for holding the line where other boards may have caved in.

While the board puffed its chest out with pride that they had made a popular decision, Lorgat emerged almost apologetically into the limelight. At his first press engagement, he spoke on the India issue with humility. He said he did not know exactly what he had done to earn their ire and he wanted to understand their concerns. He also gave an assurance he would be willing to say sorry to India because maintaining close ties with him is in the best interests of CSA.

He will have to find equilibrium between heading up CSA in a way that is credible to the South African public while also keeping peace and fostering relationships with other boards.

Therein also lies Lorgat's biggest challenge. He will have to find equilibrium between heading up CSA in a way that is credible to the South African public while also keeping peace and fostering relationships with other boards. In essence, Lorgat will have to be a diplomat. Fortunately for him that is something he has had a lot of practice doing.

With one eye on international image and the other at restoring CSA's reputation at home, Lorgat will also need a third, to scan over the intricacies of running South African cricket. The main protagonists, the players, cannot be ignored. South Africa's Test squad appear to be able to take care of themselves and the limited-overs' units seem the problem children but it is not that clear cut.

South Africa's golden generation are slowly being affected by injury and age as Graeme Smith's ankle recurrences have come too frequently and Jacques Kallis accepts the twilight. Even the usually fit Dale Steyn has begun to pick up niggles. As we've seen recently with India and Australia, a succession plan needs to be watertight for a country not to feel the losses of some heavyweights. South Africa's depth exists but when it is severely tested, as has happened with the one-day side now, it's evident there is work to be done.

The franchises have continually produced players who are capable of stepping up but they have oft-cried for assistance. They rely on CSA for grants and many of them would like those to increase. The domestic Twenty20 competition is an avenue they want to further monetise with players with a worldwide appeal to draw in advertisers to match. CSA do not want to compete with the IPL, that would be pointless, but they would prefer something like the Big Bash League instead of the low-profile event they are saddled with now.

And to make Lorgat's job a little more difficult, he also has to pay attention to development. In a country with a past as divided as South Africa's, addressing inequality is complicated. Transformation is associated with fast-tracking players of colour but it is not as unfair as that. As a policy it looks at making opportunities to play cricket available to all people and, by implication, those who were previously disadvantaged require more attention.

It is often criticised because it is applied higher-up at the same time as it takes root at the lowest-levels. Many would prefer to see real change at grassroots long before it grows elsewhere because they believe that will allow for real change. But others have growing impatience about the slow rate of representation.

Unity took place 22 years ago and to date only five black Africans, who make the majority of the population - Makhaya Ntini, Mfuneko Ngam, Thami Tsolekile, Monde Zondeki and Lonwabo Tsotsobe - have played Test cricket despite black African communities having century-long traditions in the game. Lorgat himself said he feels South Africa is not benefitting fully by failing to tap into this talent pool and he wants to change that.

Von Zeuner may be strictly correct: by the traditional understanding of a business, CSA is not broken. But by the larger one, it has holes. If Lorgat can fill some of them, his time in charge will be judged successful.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    @ Mohammad Majan. Fair enough sir & yes i agree that its clear the maybe the South Africa cricket board has not done enough at grassroots level since readmission to make it easier for black players to get proper access to cricket that white proteas have.

    But i've also noticed and been told many times over the last decade by saffies i know, that black south african are more attracted to football than cricket by a large margin. Everton FC player Steven Pienaar from what i gather is far more known/popular in the black community that Jacques Kallis or Dale Steyn. If this this true, then that would make the transformation policy redundant sort of?

    I think its a dangerous game to let this "necessary evil" continue because i don't think modern white proteas should be punished for the board's inability to make it easy for black players to step up.

    Because as i said the these decisions are preventing their ODI/T20 from dominating the world like the test team is currrently in my view.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 20:18 GMT

    @wayne... Thanks for your responses. In your first comment you write that you understand and respect the complications of SA's social history, but then go on to say that the policy of transformation is perculiar. The transformation you allude to is one at the highest level of the game. As @Marktc points out the real thrust of transformation needs to happen at all levels starting at development and school levels. Until a young black boy growing up in the township does not have to take 2 taxis to have access to cricket or uproot and go to a 'white' school to have any chance of been selected for provincial cricket, transformation in all it's perculiarities is a 'necessary evil'. SA's social injustices of the past mean that the once marginalized sectors of the community will always be playing catch up unless there are policies in place to level the playing field. Saying all that, I'm with you that SA needs to play winning cricket with its best players, what I disagree with is your argument

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    @ Mohammed Majan pt 3....Just before that world cup he was creating havoc in the English T20 competition & was a big hit in the IPL this year. Mind you Behradin looks a ok player & i think he was one of better coloured players. However no way should Amla (never a T20 player, he recently retired from the format) nor Ontong should have gone to the T20 world cup 2012 ahead of Miller.Parnell was in your T20 W-Cup squad currently is in your T20 squad in the ongoing Sri Lanka tour. This guy has done nothing in international cricket of note since impressing during the 2009 T20 W-Cup. Again isn't it obvious he is being persisted with just because of the colour of his skin??.You have a a better white all-rounder by David Weise who deserves a look in. Same thing with Phangiso & yes i would say Roloef Van Der Merwe gives S Africa better all-round package than him. While both are left-arm spinners, VDM can bat especially good as Robin Peterson & is a better fielder.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    @ Mohammad Majan pt 2...But going back to your ODI team. Yes i am aware of the stunning statistical fact that Tstosobe was once ranked # 1 ODI bowler. He may not have disgraced himself, but if we are presuming Steyn/Morkel will start most games - guys like Morris & Kleinvelt offers a better all round package as a cricket than Lonwabo & shoud always play ahead of him. Do you seriously think the proteas limited overs teams would be weaker if Tstosobe never plays again? Justin Ontong played as recent as March 2013 vs Pakistan. He didn't go to the Champs trophy, but currently he is captaining your A team vs Australia A. How is that even possible that a player who never looked international standard is now your A-team captain?? It obvious its due to the colour of his skin... Yes Behradin may be averaging similar to Miller, but isn't it obvious who is the better player?...It was lunacy that Miller wasn't in S Africa T20 world cup squad last year.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 8:00 GMT

    @ Mohammed Majam.Firstly yes i've done my research on the S Africa team. I have been following cricket since S Africa were readmitted in 1992 as an England supporter. I've noticed their development in the last 20 years & the peculiar policy of "transformation" that started during the infamous 2001 tour to Australia when Justin Ontong was ordered to replace Jacques Rudolph. So to your questions. The black/coloured proteas players who i believe are getting picked for extended runs in your ODI/T20 teams especially are Tsostobe, Ontong, Parnell, Phangiso, Behradin. Before them i recall this opener called Loots Bossman playing a ridiculous amount of ODI's before being axed, when he never looked international quality.Plus in a test match related case, i can recall during England 2009/10 tour to S Africa, an impressive looking Fridel De Wet not playing ahead of a declining Ntini, because outside pressure wanted him to play 100 tests.

  • Mark on July 25, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    I believe that producing cricketers (or any sportsman) start from school or at least junior club level. When you get to international level, you HAVE to be selected on merit alone. It is not only the pride of a country at stake but economics. Should we have an understrength side, no matter what the make up, they will lose support and be unmarketable. This will lead to large amounts of money going unearned and this will filter down, affecting transformation. SA has some non white players who perhaps should not be there, but then, there are also white players who should not either. Transformation has to start at ground cannot be forced at international level. Furthermore, if non white players are forced into the side, surely it also dilutes the merit of those who achieved it on their ability alone. Simply put- if you are good, an deserve to be in the team, you should be.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2013, 21:48 GMT

    @wayne perry... I would like to challenge you on two of your short sighted statements: 1. You say certain non white players are picked over 'proven' white players. Could you cite specific examples of this? When doing this please can you tell me the amount of opportunity these proven white players have been given over their non white counterpart? 2. You mention certain non white players who always seem to be around the ODI team and "don't deserve to". May I point out that Tsotsobe is the highest ranked South African ODI bowler in 8th spot internationally. Until very recently he was number 1. Behardien has been 'around' for all of 8 games and averages exactly like his white counterpart Miller. Phangiso has been 'around' for all of 4 matches. Which white spinner would rather be plying? roelf?? Lastly Parnell and Ontong have not been around the team in the last few series. Surely they can't blamed or anything.

    So ultimately I would hope that you research your claims next time!

  • DaGame on July 24, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    India is always been the team that supported South Africa during tough times. Especially with their power of money and influence, CSA should address their concerns with BCCI and vice-versa. BCCI initial problems with Lorgat were due to forcing DRS, I believe. Now that DRS is exposed, there is no harm in accepting that DRS is still in developing stage and need to re-looked at. I really hope friendship continues between two boards.

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    @Ryan_H, you clearly have no understanding of professional cricket, and also of developing cricket. I coach school level, and unfortunately it is there that I can see no valid development. You cannot push a player into the international scene without proper development and preparation - the step-up between levels are just too great. You have no idea just how skilled, hard-working and professional you need to be to be able to make it there.

  • harjinder on July 23, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    Selection should be on marit ,does matter what colour or race .....Southafrica can build the winner team in one minute ,,,if board really want to do ,Country comes first ........

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