Boards need to respect players

2012-12-14 00:00

THE fact that players have given Cricket South Africa (CSA) a warning of a labour dispute is a sign that players do not want to be associated with a crooked administration.

When I read Telford Vice’s article in the Tuesday edition of the Times, I asked myself why the players have kept quiet for so long? The chess game that is cricket does require for the mind to detach itself and draw a white sheet of serenity over a player’s mind as they have to channel their energies into the action on the 22-yard strip and the lush green grass surrounding it.

South Africa have shown that boardroom shenanigans have had no effect on what they have been getting up to on the field. One simply needs to look at how Sri Lanka’s boardroom battles played out, especially in England in 2011 when Sanath Jayasuriya, now a member of parliament, strolled out for one extra One Day International with the rest of the side less than happy with a relic from the 1996 Cricket World Cup-winning side filling space that should have been reserved for a younger player.

Not that Jayasuriya created a dinosaur that youngsters cannot push out. Sri Lanka have problems with new blood breaking through, with their fabulous four of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakarra, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera not getting any younger. Also add to the part that the Sri Lankan board has been unable to pay its players properly, leaving it to the mercies of the T20 leagues prising its best cricketers and having to adjust their seasons around the leagues. Cue the postponement of the Test series against South Africa that was going to take place in the middle of next year so their best players will be available for the Sri Lankan Premier League.

That aside, it would have been easy for the team to split along the side in which their bread is buttered on. South Africa’s deeply entrenched provincial system where administrators hardly have a say in what happens on the field has filtered through to the national setup. Still, there have been examples of executive interference when it comes to selection, with the classic case being that of the late advocate Percy Sonn forcing his executive hand in getting Justin Ontong into the South African Test team ahead of Jacques Rudolph. The Proteas lost that Test by 10 wickets, a whitewash that has not been experienced since.

It would have been unfathomable to see Graeme Smith siding with a section of the board and having the team swim in his direction, but such has been the mental strength of the team. They have soldiered on as if nothing was happening while blood was being spilt in the corridors. It was always going to be a case of how long they would continue and why they have kept quiet for so long.

It is also ironic that the deadline of February 1 also coincides with the start of the Pakistan Test series.

The tourists are not the model of governance themselves with nepotism rife in their board and team selection. Zaka Ashraf’s tenure as Pakistan Cricket Board chairperson has gone a long way in remedying this mess and it has had an influence on how their Test team has played.

The boards often come off second best when they do not attend to the players’ needs because at the end of the day, fans do not flock to the grounds to watch administrators sitting in their presidential suites and sipping expensive drinks. It is the players whom they spend their hard-earned money on and that should not change.

With sponsors coming on board, there is a sign of resurrection, but if the players disappear, the sponsors will follow them.

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