CSA pays the price for biting India’s hand

2013-10-26 00:00

“AND having looked to the government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that feeds them.” — Edmund Burke.

Many years ago I was the managing director of a fast-moving consumer goods company that supplied product to the retail industry. In common with other such suppliers, we had to put up with many dubious practices and a stream of insults from our customers. It was often tempting to call time on the worst offenders and decline to supply them. We learnt to our cost that complaining was not worth it.

Every year, I accompanied our sales director to a meeting with the chairperson of one of our biggest customers for the review of the trading terms for the forthcoming year. After a cordial discussion, which invariably included a substantial donation to the chairperson’s favourite charity, we would get down to business.

Afterwards, the chairperson would ask in his most solicitous manner if there were any complaints we wanted to register with him about any of his employees. This was the moment we usually thanked him for the meeting and quietly took our leave. On one occasion, however, after a particularly troubling year with one of his buyers we made the mistake of yielding to temptation. We told the chairperson that this buyer’s behaviour was often unacceptable, that it demeaned us and let down his own his company. We were thanked for our honesty and assured that our remarks would be treated with the utmost discretion.

The next day the same buyer called our sales director, berated him for our remarks and instructed us to have all our products removed from their stores by the end of the week. The chairperson refused our calls. It cost us half a million rand to get back on their shelves but the lesson we learned was probably worth the cost. It is that every interaction with a major customer must be assessed in terms of risk. The old lore that insists that the “customer is always right” has never changed.

This is a knowledge that seems to have passed CSA by. This is despite its plethora of experienced, independent directors led by he of the unfortunate anagram, our old friend Mr Arendse, now on his second round of duty on the national board. Arendse is known to be an ardent supporter of the now partially suspended Haroon Lorgat, the man who has given such offence to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

By insisting on an appointment that he knew would be provocative to the Indians, Arendse and the CSA board have soured relationships with them and landed in a mess from which escape will be both untidy and expensive. It is difficult to see how Lorgat can continue to operate effectively if his organisation’s most important trading partner is implacably opposed to him. CSA should be wary of a situation where its CEO has to be hidden away from the powerful Indians.

The best way out of this shambles is for Lorgat to offer his resignation and for the board of CSA to accept it. The trouble is that, having campaigned so assiduously for the post, Lorgat is unlikely to do any such thing, in which case CSA will have to fire him with all the attendant costs.

It is no use moaning about the behaviour of the BCCI. From the time that the United Cricket Board of South Africa joined the chorus to persuade England and Australia to forego the vetoes they enjoyed as the founding fathers of the ICC, the rise of India as the bully extraordinaire of international cricket has been inevitable. The BCCI is now in complete de facto control of the ICC. This state of affairs will last as long as the television companies of India are prepared to pay huge sums of money to broadcast cricket. This is a reality that no national cricket body can afford to ignore in any of its decision making.

I believe that much, although not all, of the present tumult has happened because the BCCI woke up late to the possibility of the massive financial bonanza that would accrue to them if Sachin Tendulkar was to play his 200th test in India rather than at Newlands. Their beef with Lorgat has been a convenient smoke screen to hide their real motive.

This is a story about naked power. Sadly, we know that such stories do not have happy endings.

Talking of which, it seems likely that the Proteas’ little foray into the sands of the Arabian desert will end as it should have started with a sound beating of Pakistan. Once again, Graeme Smith has been at the forefront of his team’s performance in an important Test match. No other captain, including Don Bradman, has produced so many match-winning innings for his country. He is now within a year of surpassing that architect of drawn matches, Sunil Gavaskar, as the highest run-scoring Test captain in the game.

South Africans may fret over the impending loss to the Proteas of Jacques Kallis but it is arguable that Smith is the most important cog in the team. He has the priceless gifts of being able to seize the moment when it comes and lead from the front to deliver the potential of that moment better than any South African cricketer in history.

He has borne the burden of leadership longer than any other Test captain and no one would blame him if he decided to turn in his cards.

The bald fact, however, is that his country needs him to continue in office for the foreseeable future. Let us hope that the thrill of making double hundreds when it counts stays Smith’s hand. Finally, let us doff our caps to Russell Domingo and the selectors for daring to give Imran Tahir a chance for redemption and to the wrist spinner for seizing his opportunity.

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