CSA caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

Cricket South Africa (CSA) appear to be stranded between the devil and the deep blue sea when it comes to last year’s postponed T20Global.

Should the tournament go ahead in altered form later this year, it will attract legal action across a broad front from many of last year’s disenfranchised owners. Should CSA postpone the tournament for a second consecutive year, they will face credibility problems the like of which will make last year’s fiasco seem like a beach holiday.

After two acrimonious offshore meetings between the owners and CSA last week, the parties have retired to lick their wounds. CSA asked disgruntled owners for a stay of execution after the second meeting in Mumbai on Saturday afternoon, and now have a ten-day window during which they promised to liaise with their board and come back to them.

Some owners have indulged CSA’s request, while others remain sceptical. “I don’t buy it,” said Hiren Bhanu of the Pretoria Mavericks, probably the most confrontational of last year’s owners. “I’m seeking legal opinion from a Queen’s Counsel as soon as it can be arranged. After that, we will strategise on when and where to best place my interdict.”

Key in all of this is the role played by satellite broadcaster, SuperSport. On June 8, CSA announced a deal with them to form a third entity who would run the 2018 tournament. Details were sketchy at the time, CSA only saying that there would be six teams and that the tournament would last for six weeks from the second week of November until the middle of December.

Increasingly, however, lack of detail from both parties suggests that CSA’s announcement was premature, a view given substance in weekend press reports two weeks ago that SuperSport were on the verge of walking away.

Names haven’t been given to any of the six franchises; a business model hasn’t been clarified and an expression of interest document to players other than last year’s marquee players (like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen and suchlike) hasn’t been circulated.

The tournament doesn’t even have a name. “The button on this should have been pressed a week ago and it hasn’t,” said a cricket insider. “The tournament is now two-and-a-half months away and very little has been done.”

While CSA fiddles, the sport burns. Yesterday (Wednesday) they managed to sidestep being called to account for the current impasse before parliament’s portfolio committee on sport in Cape Town on Tuesday, citing the fact that they were preparing for the CSA AGM at the end of September.

The two are, of course, unrelated – and CSA’s non-appearance is instructive. Here is an organisation in a tangle. And the knots are becoming more difficult to unravel by the day.

As minds turn ponderously to the AGM, so arrive the perennial accusations of horse-trading. With alliances being formed and broken on an almost daily basis, word came out of the Western Cape that Beresford Williams, current Cobras president, might run for the CSA vice-presidency, which would pave the way for him to become CSA president in due course. An insider put it pithily when he said: “That would be a disaster.”

While the relationship between reactive administration and matters on the field is often complicated – and sometimes delayed – it is worth noting that South African teams on the sub-continent haven’t covered themselves in glory this winter. Two of them – the Proteas and the Emerging side, made up of the current National Academy intake – have been playing in Sri Lanka, while the SA A side have been campaigning in India ahead of a two-week quadrangular tournament lasting until the end of the month.

All in all, the three sides have played 15 matches, ranging from Tuesday’s one-off T20 at Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium, to three 50-over matches for the Emerging side and two “Tests” for SA A. Of the 15, three matches have been won (the three first three ODIs by the senior side, which gave them the five-match series), two drawn and 10 lost.

The Emerging side, the cream of South Africa’s rising talent, in other words, didn’t win a match in five and after two abysmal performances in short-lived Tests, Faf du Plessis’ men weren’t much better. “I question a little bit our player thinking more so than anything else,” said national coach Ottis Gibson after South Africa had been bowled out for 96 on Tuesday’s T20 international. “I don’t think there was enough player thinking in terms of guys working out for themselves what shots on the pitch are relevant and so on.”

Such struggles recall EM Foster’s question in A Passage to India about whether the sub-continent is a mystery or a muddle. Three out of 15 is not a good return, whichever way you finesse it, which suggests that for the three aforementioned sides, playing cricket there might be both.

None of the three sides is in nearly as big a muddle as the parent body for the sport in South Africa. They were three months late in finalising the Memorandum of Understanding between themselves and the SA Cricketers’ Association (SACA) and then there is the little matter of Gulam Bodi’s second appearance in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday. Bodi was suspended for 20 years early last year for his involvement in a match-fixing ring with sub-continental links.

It was assumed that the matter had run its course but the case was picked up by the National Prosecuting Authority and, a month ago, Bodi found himself in court on criminal charges. How will he plead? If he pleads guilty, how will this impact on his six co-accused, some of whom believe they were given indemnity from criminal prosecution by CSA during CSA’s anti-corruption unit investigation. A muddle indeed.

CSA’s acting head of communications Koketso Gaofetoge was approached for comment. He declined to do so, saying CSA’s chief executive, Thabang Moroe, would release a statement on the T20 tournament’s future in due course.

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