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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
July 23, 2013
"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 correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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