Graeme Smith has been announced as South Africa's first director of cricket, albeit in a temporary role, after several months of negotiation. Smith has signed on for three months and will begin work immediately, with two weeks to go before South Africa play England in a four-Test series at home, starting on Boxing Day, followed by three ODIs and as many T20Is. The position was created in the aftermath of South Africa's underwhelming 2019 World Cup campaign, and involves overseeing all cricket played under Cricket South Africa's administration.
The former captain could not take on the role for longer at this stage, because of his commitment to commentating in the IPL in 2020, a tournament which runs from March 23 to May 12. Smith's availability beyond May is not known but will be established by CSA in future.
The time frame means that Smith will only be able to work on the men's national team for the England series and the limited-overs matches against Australia which conclude on March 7, and not take on all the responsibilities intended for the director of cricket. The position was intended to include the women's, age-group and academy teams and to create an national strategy. However, given the limitations on Smith's time, he will not be involved in the Under-19 World Cup (which starts in January 2020) or the Women's T20 World Cup (which will be played in February-March 2020). Instead, Smith's most urgent task will be to appoint a national selection panel and coaching staff for the men's national side as they prepare to take on England.
Speaking of his new role, Smith said: "I've publicly stated a number of times that I would love to assist CSA in this difficult time, particularly in developing this new role of director of cricket. I'm still as passionate about South African cricket as I ever was, and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the role. There is a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks and months and my objective will always be to make a positive impact during my tenure."
Smith was initially approached for the job on August 28, at a meeting mediated by former United Cricket Board (now CSA) managing director Ali Bacher and involving suspended CEO Thabang Moroe. On November 9, ESPNcricinfo revealed that Smith had been interviewed alongside suspended interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl and former national selector Hussein Manack.
Five days later, Smith posted on social media confirming that he had withdrawn his interest in the role and cited lack of confidence in CSA's administration as his main reason.
Since then, CSA has been through turbulent times which have resulted in the CEO being suspended over allegations of misconduct. However, president Chris Nenzani continued discussions with Smith over the role. Acting CEO Jacques Faul finalised the deal with Smith.
Faul said of Smith's appointement: "I am delighted that Graeme has agreed to assist Cricket South Africa up until the IPL next year. Obviously, Graeme has had his concerns during the course of the last few months, but I am pleased to say that we have overcome those concerns and I look forward to working with him to urgently address pressing cricketing matters in particular.
"Graeme is ... a natural leader and his knowledge of the game is second to none. To have him on board to work with the professional cricket arm of CSA, as well as the cricketing pipeline, which is so vital for our game, is a massive shot in the arm for CSA during this period."
With Smith set to appoint the national coaching staff, it remains to be seen if Enoch Nkwe stays on as team director - he was appointed in the role in an interim capacity in August.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent