With the South African domestic season nine days away, a group of Cobras players will ask the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a dispute resolution body, to force their employer, Western Cape Cricket Board, (WCC), to remove coach Paul Adams. The players' insistence comes after a report by Paddy Upton, who had been appointed a mediator in grievances the group had with Adams, called for coach to "stand down". The WCC decided not to implement the findings of Upton's report because it contained material deficiencies.
"The problem the board found with Paddy's report is that not only did he not speak to all of the Cobras' contracted players, but he did not even speak to some of the players with problems," an insider told ESPNcricinfo. "The report was never intended to be binding; it was merely intended to make recommendations and the board chose not to go with those."
While Upton's report has been viewed by both the WCC and the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA), who are assisting the aggrieved players in their CCMA case, it has not been made public. Similarly, none of the disgruntled Cobras players has been willing to talk about the reasons for their unhappiness with Adams. However, two players, Cobras' limited-overs' captain Justin Ontong and left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks, have spoken out in support for Adams.
Ontong told Times Media he was "disappointed" by the way some players had blamed Adams for their lack of success in the 2015-16 season, the first in eight that the franchise went without a trophy. "We had a bad season but it's also about players taking responsibility for their own performances - we all didn't perform very well. You can't just pass the buck and say the coach was to blame," Ontong said.
Hendricks praised Adams' ability to get on with the job despite what was brewing behind the scenes. "I have to applaud the way he has handled things. He hasn't taken anything to heart‚ he still carries on with what he needs to do as a coach. Things are really moving forward nicely‚ even though there are situations happening."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Dane Paterson, Zubayr Hamza and Tshepo Moreki are among those in support of Adams while first-class captain Omphile Ramela and internationals Richard Levi and Dane Vilas are part of the group that are unhappy. Their issues with Adams range from his man-management skills to his technical knowledge.
While SACA says that 10 players are demanding the implementation of Upton's recommendations, a source at the Cobras said some of those players had retracted their complaints. "The problem is that there is a split squad at the moment and you have groups of players who are not talking to each other."
That was not the mood when pre-season training began earlier this month and the Cobras squad assembled at Newlands. Then, Adams offered an apology and informed his charges he had undergone extra training in the form of a leadership course over the winter. He asked that they work out their differences in an attempt to get back to winnings ways. Adams also had his management team bolstered by the inclusion of Ashwell Prince as assistance coach and Alan Dawson as selection convener.
Adams has been in charge of the Cobras since 2012 and won five trophies in four seasons with the franchise. He has the backing of the board, who offered him a two-year extension to his contract at the end of last season, which has yet to be signed. The contract could be rescinded if the players win their CCMA case. However, the Cobras have indicated that if that happens, they will keep Adams on in some capacity, even if it is at a lower level.
The earliest a CCMA decision will take place is at least a month away, which means the season will start with this cloud hanging over the Cobras. For now, the players will take the field when the Cobras' season starts next Wednesday with a first-class fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg.
This is the second time this year that the CCMA have become involved in cricket matters. In August, Lance Klusener took the Dolphins to the body after his contract was not renewed. Klusener lost the case.