The game of cricket has grown in the world the last twenty five years with regards to its popularity and commercially. Most of this growth has taken place on the sub-continent and cricket is now officially the second biggest team sport in the world after football. The growth of the game is due to not only international cricket, but also the high profile and rich T20 tournaments that have sprung up around the world.
Cricket has been commercialised with television rights holders and sponsors investing millions of dollars into the game. It is no longer a game but a product that has been sold. Players today earn massive salaries in careers and there is a lot at stake for the professional cricketer. The days of the Marylebone Cricket Club running world cricket are long gone and the game is run by professionals.
The Proteas team still has an outdated selection process with a selection panel of five like in the amateur era. The coach has very little influence on the selection of the team, as he is no more than a member of the selection panel, but is accountable for the performances. What is a concern is when one analyses who the current selection panel are. Between the five, only two have played international cricket and only Ashwell Prince has enjoyed a sustained and successful international career.
Compare this to Australia who has a selection panel of four including the coach. Their convenor has and always will be a former great Australian cricketer. Currently their convenor is Rod Marsh, who needs no introduction. All the selectors have played international cricket and had substantial careers for Australia.
It is difficult to understand why, after 23 years of playing international cricket since unity, Cricket South Africa (CSA) cannot appoint a former Proteas player as convenor.
CSA needs to scrap their national selection panel as they do not have the time or experience to perform the task professionally. They consist mainly of part-timers trying to select a professional team from high profile players.
What CSA needs is to appoint a Director of Cricket that is responsible for the strategic management and direction of the Proteas (Men and Women), South Africa ‘A’ and South Africa U.19 – very much along the lines that Andrew Strauss does for England.
The Director of Cricket needs to manage all national teams, coaches and players and be accountable to the Board and Chief Executive Officer on these matters. Most importantly he needs to manage the selection process with the coach to ensure that the best national teams are playing at all times. Selection should be the work of employed professionals with only the Director and coach picking the team. This streamlined approach will ensure that the best teams will take the field.
Currently there is no person responsible for playing strategies and the players are left to the devices of an amateur selection panel and its successors. CSA will reap the benefits of employing a qualified Director of Cricket and professionalizing all aspects of the national teams.