CSA’s appointment of Lorgat may be its undoing

2013-09-07 00:00

I WILL know that I have arrived in hell when the first sound I hear on passing through the great divide is: “Thank you for calling *enter company name here*. We may record this call to monitor the service that we are giving you. If you want burial services, please press one, if you want accommodation queries, please press two, if you want ...”

I will then know that I have been condemned to an eternity of being pushed around the infinite corners of hell, amid interludes of mind-reducing music, in the vain hope of reversing the monstrous unfairness of not finding myself in the other place.

For current members of the executive and administration of Cricket South Africa (CSA), the realisation is dawning that, unless there is a remarkable change of heart in Delhi, they have entered a nether world where the fortunes of the game they control in the beloved country are determined now by a group of people who have not the slightest interest in the problems of Cricket South Africa.

One can only hope that the efforts of Haroon Lorgat and his friends to change this ebb tide of control are not met with temper-busting obstacles thrown at them by a call centre operated on behalf of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“For Test matches against India, please press one. For one-day internationals, please press two. If you want a more co-operative attitude from the BCCI, please press three after you have fired your chief executive officer.”

Whether or not you think Lorgat is a suitable man to be running cricket in this country is irrelevant. I happen to believe on several grounds that he was neither the right man nor the best available man for the job, but it is still outrageous that the BCCI attempted to dissuade CSA from appointing someone that the Indians deemed unsuitable.

Once the BCCI had publicly voiced its concern about Lorgat, the relevant officials on the new board of CSA found themselves in an impossible position. They were damned whatever they did, but it may have been just a little bit wiser to have bowed their pride before the tiger that the BCCI has become.

After all, the BCCI was not the only cricket board to have voiced dissatisfaction with the performance of Lorgat when he was running the day-to-day affairs of the International Cricket Council (ICC). It is not as though Lorgat was a happy choice, as he was thrust upon a surprised ICC by Ray Mali, during his short but unhappy term as that body’s president.

It is common cause that Lorgat was not highly regarded either by his masters at the ICC or by those who worked for him. There was a general sigh of relief when his brief tenure came to an end.

Sadly, however, the regret at Lorgat’s continuing influence on cricket will now be felt closer to home. One of the criticisms is that Lorgat has been more interested in his own welfare than that of cricket or his employees. He cannot afford to prolong the staff disquiet that has been endemic at the headquarters of South African cricket for several years.

Already, the hubris displayed in appointing Lorgat against the weight of evidence has come to disturb CSA sooner than anyone expected.

It is not possible to downgrade the gravity of insult that the BCCI has delivered to CSA. Our cricket team is currently ranked number one in the world. Most countries should be falling over themselves to play the Proteas, but in one deadly stroke, the Indians have reduced South Africa to the status of bit players in world cricket.

India have chosen to tour New Zealand in preference of making a substantial tour to South Africa. On the same day that the BCCI notified that India was only prepared to grant South Africa two Test matches this coming summer, it informed the world that their next tour to England will contain five lucrative Test matches.

The message is loud and clear. Despite South Africa’s current ranking as the best Test team in the world, India no longer believes that its cricket is worthy of respect. In their eyes, the Proteas are a single notch above their northern neighbours.

The financial implications of this should be causing sleepless nights among the money minders of the CSA. It had been hoped that South Africa would be able to build upon its ranking in the world game to cement its position as one of cricket’s big four, with all that that entails.

Now India has made it abundantly clear that there is just the big three, comprising itself, Australia and England. The impact of this on future revenues cannot be underestimated. Television revenues from India will be reduced by a third at least. Local sponsorships will be wary if the prospect now is that of reduced contact with the game’s major teams whose calendars are being filled with meetings between each other. Gate attendances will decline further.

It could get worse. If this rift is not mended soon, India could prevail upon its growing number of friends to place South Africa in a pariah position in many respects of the international game. Already we are not on any future list to host an ICC tournament. We could be frozen out of the T20 Champion’s League, in which we are minority shareholders.

Our best players have developed closer loyalties to their Indian paymasters than their local, poorer ones.

If hard times visit South African cricket, our top players will find themselves as easily poached as they were in the days of apartheid.

In an economy that is so unfriendly to business, the value of the rand is threatened as never before, and the lure of hard currencies will become irresistible to generations of South African cricketers. If that happens, our ability to compete with the best will be compromised.

Such is one prospect of the Lorgat era. It almost makes one nostalgic for the days of Gerald Majola.

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