A comparison of the CSA backdrop between this and the last England tour here only underlines the speed of the organisation’s rot, writes Rob Houwing
The pace and violence of Cricket South Africa’s descent into widespread levels of chaos has been as remarkable as the phenomenon itself.
Perhaps, for purposes of demonstration, resorting to the cricket calendar is the most educative yardstick: England are already in the warm-up phase of a major tour of our shores – the opening match against the Proteas is the first Test at Centurion from Boxing Day – and the domestic backdrop is enormously different to when they last had a safari here, in 2015/16.
Mostly for all the wrong reasons.
When vastly experienced (domestically and internationally) administrator, chartered accountant, former SACB first-class player and then-CEO Haroon Lorgat presented his CSA annual statement for 2015/16, he wrote bullishly at the time: “We experienced another stellar financial performance during the period under review, with our actual revenue exceeding budget by some margin (2016: actual R825m, budget R620m; 2015: actual R761m, budget R511m).
“We were also flattered by the renewal of all our major commercial sponsorships plus a new four-year flagship deal with Standard Bank South Africa … they are now the Proteas’ title sponsor across all three formats of the game.”
Whisk to the present, and CSA’s financial conundrum, by stark contrast, is extremely well-documented … a situation only compounded a few days ago by Standard Bank announcing their quitting of the Proteas sponsorship after the current season, following a sequence of debilitating flashpoints in the corridors of power which culminated in the suspension earlier this month of Lorgat’s successor as CEO in late 2017, Thabang Moroe.
While Lorgat was able to trumpet the firmly “on board” status of various other vital sponsors four years back, a glaring feature of the Moroe administration has been its inability to boast commercial backing for the lion’s share of major franchise competitions and even the supposed new “international-flavoured” but currently loss-making Mzansi Super League.
Back in 2015/16, the now merely “CSA 4-Day Franchise Series” was still the Sunfoil Series, and the then still active franchise T20 competition (abolished now after being run as the CSA T20 Challenge before falling victim to austerity measures this summer) was sponsored by Ram Slam.
Only the Momentum One-Day Cup maintains a common title between 2015/16 and the present.
But the national team set-up was also infinitely more clear-cut when it came to occupation of important, clear-cut portfolios.
There was a full-time head coach then in Russell Domingo – roughly in the middle of his four-year tenure – as opposed to the confusing situation just a few days ago of an interim director of cricket (Graeme Smith, just signed, albeit for only three months) overseeing an interim team director in Enoch Nkwe (now effectively slipping a notch to assistant coach, after one series, with the appointment of Mark Boucher to 2023 as head coach … at least a decisive step).
Nor were the national selection berths vacant, as they had been more recently for several months: at the time, Linda Zondi (welcomed back on board on Saturday) then headed up a panel also comprising Hussain Manack, Domingo and two former national players in Ashwell Prince and Errol Stewart.
Just a handful of months onward from the English visit of 2015/16, South Africa played in a one-day international Tri-Series in the Caribbean (also featuring West Indies and Australia) … and a landmark event occurred that would, arguably, make a significant mockery of at least part of the campaign to oust the streetwise Lorgat as CEO in 2017.
Later to be branded “anti-transformational” by an increasingly strident, ambitious black African lobby within the CSA corridors, Lorgat was proudly able to trumpet, in early June 2016, a national team fielding an unprecedented eight players of colour.
Not only that, but the combination – which saw appearances for all of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi and an emerging pace sensation in Kagiso Rabada – whipped the Aussies by 47 runs in Providence, Guyana.
Mere lip-service to transformation under Lorgat’s watch? Hardly, it seemed crystal clear.
Remember, too, a rich irony at the time: CSA were among several domestic sports administrative bodies being forbidden, by then Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula (now Minister of Transport, mind), from bidding for international-event hosting because of what he perceived to be a sluggish pace of transformation.
If you wished to deepen that sense of irony further, you could run the rule over the last Proteas team to play a one-day international, under the CSA charge of a pre-suspension Moroe: in the last match of their ill-fated 2019 World Cup on July 6, a consolation, narrow triumph over Australia at Old Trafford, South Africa fielded an XI dominated by white players.
Any perceptive, visiting English enthusiast (there are always plenty of them) to South Africa for the looming series, interested in more than just on-field fortunes between the two countries, might well scratch his or her head over just how comprehensively cricket administration here has lost its lustre and competency in the space of the four years between tours.
Somewhere, Haroon Lorgat (far from faultless, yet reputationally the skipper of tight ships) might be looking into a non-alcoholic beverage and pondering recent life with some sense of bewilderment as well …
*Follow our chief sports writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing