2019: South African cricket's annus horribilis

Defeats on the field, retirements of major players, a board that's faltering on almost all fronts - and that's not all

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
It has rarely been this bad for South African cricket. On the field, the team is reeling from five consecutive Test-match defeats, their worst performance at a World Cup, and the retirements of the last members of their golden generation. Off it, Cricket South Africa (CSA) is trying to put out fires in every corner - from court battles against the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) to internal matters that have seen three senior members of staff suspended for alleged dereliction of duty. Not to forget, the board is drowning in debt.
Since their readmission, South Africa have lost more Tests in a year (7 out of 11 in 2016), dealt with bigger controversies (think Hansie Cronje), and gone through financial struggles, most notably when India cut short their 2013-14 tour, which denied CSA revenues of approximately R 300 million (USD 19.8 million approx). But to have all these in the same year makes 2019 quite the annus horribilis.
Here's a look back at just how bad it has been.
  • Duanne Olivier goes Kolpak just after finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the Test series against Pakistan. Olivier took 24 wickets, seven more than Kagiso Rabada, at an average of 14.70.
  • South Africa lose a Test series 2-0 to Sri Lanka at home. It is the first time an Asian team has won a Test series in South Africa.
  • Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi are ruled out of the IPL with a shoulder injury and a side strain respectively. This goes on to have major implications for South Africa's World Cup campaign.
  • CSA unveils Project 654, a plan to limit the damage as losses to the tune of R 654 million [USD 44.2 million approx] are projected over the next four-year cycle. The losses will come from a dearth of lucrative incoming tours, a sparsity of sponsors, and the Mzansi Super League (MSL), CSA's franchise T20 tournament which is in its second year. Project 654 includes restructuring the domestic system, eliminating the franchise tier completely, and resorting to a 12-team provincial structure.
  • Dale Steyn withdraws from the IPL with a shoulder injury after two matches for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
  • SACA launches a legal challenge against CSA over the proposed domestic restructure. SACA claims that 70 cricketers could lose their jobs.
  • Nortje is ruled out of the World Cup after breaking his thumb in the nets. Chris Morris is called up as his replacement.
  • South Africa lose their first three World Cup matches, and four of their first five, making them the first team to be knocked out. Hashim Amla is hit on the helmet by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the tournament-opener, and he misses the next game. Steyn does not play the first two matches and is ruled out of the tournament soon after with a shoulder injury. Ngidi pulls up with a hamstring injury in the second match and misses the next three games.
  • Imran Tahir and JP Duminy call an end to their ODI careers. Duminy also reverses his decision to be available for T20Is.
  • Otttis Gibson and his entire support staff are sacked as CSA announces a new structure for the national team: a director of cricket will be put in place to oversee all CSA's cricket structures, and the national men's team will be managed by a team director, who will appoint his own backroom staff.
  • Amla retires from all formats of international cricket.
  • Steyn retires from Test cricket. He is left out of the T20I squad to tour India over fitness concerns but says on social media that he was available.
  • Quinton de Kock is named T20I captain for India, with Faf du Plessis left out, casting doubts over his future as captain in the white-ball formats.
  • CSA announces an annual loss of R 200 million (USD 13.24 million approx) as a direct consequence of footing the entire bill for the inaugural edition of the MSL and incoming tours by non-lucrative visitors Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • CSA suspends the board of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) and places the union under its own administration over concerns relating to their financial affairs, and threatens to take the New Year's Test away from Newlands.
  • South Africa lose a Test series 3-0 in India, which includes their first back-to-back innings defeats since 1936.
  • The WPCA takes CSA to court, challenging the suspension of its board amid assurances that the New Year's Test would not be moved.
  • CSA launches an inquiry into the Cape Cobras, who had missed their transformation target in a four-day franchise match.
  • Amla signs a Kolpak deal with Surrey.
  • SACA tables a legal dispute against CSA over unpaid commercial rights fees from the 2018 MSL.
  • CSA suspends three senior members of staff including the interim director of cricket, Corrie van Zyl, for alleged dereliction of duty with regards to the unpaid commercial rights fees.
  • SACA calls for an external inquiry into the commercial rights dispute and points the finger at CEO Thabang Moroe for his role in the payment delay. CSA replies saying it will not conduct an independent investigation.
  • Graeme Smith confirms to ESPNcricinfo that he has been interviewed for the director of cricket position. Six days later, he issues a statement on social media saying he has withdrawn his interest.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent