Over the past six months, most of the cricket news coming out of South Africa has been doom and gloom. Some of it has been the establishment’s own making (the end of the catastrophic Moroe-era, the series losses against the big three, India, England and Australia, and the dismal performance of the U.19 team at the World Cup come to mind) and some not, like the Covid-19 pandemic.
But there is always something for which to be thankful. For Cricket South Africa (CSA) it has been the appointment in December of the acting CEO, Jacques Faul, and director of cricket, Graeme Smith. The ship isn’t out of danger yet, but it has been steadied.
When Faul took over, the previous chief executive, Thabang Moroe, had dumped South African cricket into three huge mess-ups: A nasty court case against the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), a commercial flop called the Mzansi Super League (MSL) and the planned restructuring of domestic cricket.
Moroe did everything in his power to undermine and marginalise SACA. As the body representing the collective interests of over 250 professional cricketers, SACA is just too important an organisation to ignore. It was heading for a disaster. Faul persuaded SACA to withdraw its court case. In turn, SACA is once again being consulted on matters such as the restructuring of domestic cricket and the Covid-19 action plan.
For the second year running, the MSL was staged at a huge financial loss to CSA. Rumour has it in the region of R120 million for 2019. CSA simply couldn’t go on like this. It is reliably understood that the 2020 edition of the MSL will go ahead, but in a different guise which will not run at a loss. An announcement in this regard is apparently imminent.
The restructuring of domestic cricket is something that must happen. The Moroe-administration, however, was just woefully incapable of implementing it. By the time Faul and Smith took the reins, it was already clear that it would not be possible to implement a new structure for the 2020/21 season. The duo has now created certainty.
Firstly, the structure of two levels of first-class cricket (franchise and provincial) will stay the same for one more season. Secondly, the competition structure has been announced. (In a nutshell, it has been curtailed and will save CSA some more money.) And thirdly, CSA has announced that a roadmap for the new domestic structure from the 2021/22 season onwards will be unveiled in June.
The new leadership also deserve a feather in their cap for being proactive in their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. On 16 March, before the President declared the nationwide lockdown, CSA already ceased all cricket activities for 60 days. It acted decisively in awarding the 4-day title to the Lions and the Momentum One Day Cup to the Dolphins. Last week Faul also announced a four-point CSA Covid-19 action plan. It is the kind of decisively leadership that was sorely lacking since 2017.
In March the Proteas had to abandon their three-match ODI tour of India because of Covid-19. Apparently Smith has already negotiated a new three-match T20 tour of India at the end of August. It could fill CSA’s coffers by as much as R180 million. Hopefully this will come off.
Thanks to capable leadership, the dark clouds that hung over CSA six months ago now have a silver lining.