South Africa in line for new selection chief
South Africa could be in line for a new convener of selectors next month, with Andrew Hudson likely to be replaced in the top job. The contracts of all four panel members - Hudson, Shafiek Abrahams, Hussein Manack and Linda Zondi - came to an end after the 2015 World Cup and Hudson is unlikely to be retained after five years in the job.
Although there is no clear indication of who will replace Hudson, one franchise confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that Ashwell Prince is among the candidates standing for election to the panel and that it will vote for him. Nominations to the panel, which will be elected on the vote of South Africa's provincial presidents, close on April 30.
Prince retired from all cricket in March but may yet return for Lancashire this season and, if appointed, could be the person on the panel with the most international experience. He played 66 Tests for South Africa, 52 ODIs and a T20 between 2002 and 2011. Abrahams, who has been tipped to keep his job, appeared in just a single ODI while Manack and Zondi featured in first-class cricket; all are likely to keep their positions.
Hudson is therefore expected to be the only casualty of the current panel, and there are conflicting reasons believed to be behind his departure. "Andrew has been there a long time and he is speaking about the time he needs for his job and his young family. It seems the time is right for change," one insider said.
Another believed that the current convener may be pushed out as part of the ongoing agenda towards aggressive transformation. "They need someone who is a little more active in transformation and he isn't driving that."
Cricket South Africa recently reaffirmed a commitment to transformation with increased quotas at domestic level. Franchise teams will be required to field at least six players of colour, of which three must be black Africans, but there remains no official quota at international level.
However, insiders have confirmed there are targets that are expected to be met - at least four players of colour in every team that takes the field and international sides are sent to CSA's transformation manager for vetting. It is believed that was what led to the recent controversy around Vernon Philander's selection for the World Cup semi-final. Allegations in the South African press - denied by CSA - claimed that Philander, who had been carrying a hamstring injury through the tournament, was forced into the starting XI at the behest of the board, who went over the selectors' and the coach and captain's heads. Russell Domingo and AB de Villiers are believed to have wanted Kyle Abbott to play.
One source said Hudson was partly to blame for the situation reaching that point. "Everybody knows we have to play four players of colour so that should have been done in the first place to avoid all this," a source said.
Hudson was appointed convener in 2010 and presided over two different panels that oversaw major changes to the leadership of the South African team. In his first stint Hudson was required to pick a replacement fifty-over captain when Graeme Smith stepped down after the 2011 World Cup, while in his second, the selectors were tasked with appointing a new Test captain in 2014 following Smith's retirement from the game.
Hudson's tenure was largely uncontroversial, particularly from a political perspective, bar one incident involving Thami Tsolekile. The wicketkeeper was nationally contracted in 2012 when Mark Boucher had made public his intention to retire and was widely tipped to take over behind the stumps. But when Boucher's exit was accelerated after a career-ending eye-injury in England that year, AB de Villiers was preferred for the job.
Tsolekile claimed Hudson had promised him he would be in the starting XI in the next season, when New Zealand and Pakistan toured, but that never happened. Hudson admitted he "did tell Thami he would get his chance against New Zealand," but the situation changed when de Villiers expressed interest in keeping permanently.
Among Hudson's big finds was including rookie spinners Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer in Test squads, picking Quinton de Kock across all formats and backing Imran Tahir at limited-overs levels.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent