How to appease cricket’s Indian masters at this vulnerable point

2014-01-31 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Based on evidence of the last few weeks or months, has there ever been a more reclusive, muted boss of South African cricket than Haroon Lorgat?

Lorgat’s position as CEO of Cricket South Africa would ordinarily be a desperately busy (I am not necessarily suggesting that part has consciously receded for him in these fraught times) and frequently public one.

As everyday commander of the administration of one of the country’s traditionally premier team sports, you would expect him to be quoted across the various domestic forms of media several times a week, and on topics of widely varying weight.

But pushed into a hapless corner of impotence first by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over the desperately controversial short series between the two countries recently, and then by ominous developments in world power alignment, CSA as a whole has largely slunk out of visibility in all but basic, bog-standard matters of keeping the local summer wheels just about turning.

The chief executive, in truth, had already been a significantly muzzled figure long before he was frozen out of key International Cricket Council talks this week over the future of the sport’s administration, all of which still point strongly to the wealthiest trio of India, England and Australia assuming a greater throat-hold over the ailing remainder of the 10 full-member nations.

In a slightly bizarre and regrettable situation, given the potentially far-reaching consequences of a realignment of global clout, Lorgat did not go to those meetings because of restrictions placed on him by the BCCI.

As part of the laboured, tense process of ensuring that India toured South Africa at all earlier in the season (eventually on a profoundly curtailed basis), it was agreed bilaterally that Lorgat not engage in any meetings of the ICC Chief Executives Committee, pending the outcome of an inquiry into his conduct.

That relates to his alleged role in a letter made public by former ICC legal adviser David Becker last year, in which the perceived danger of the BCCI’s dominance of world affairs was expressed.

The inquiry is supposedly imminent, although it has understandably been rather overshadowed in the public spotlight by the ructions around moves by the “Big Three” to increase their muscle.

If Lorgat is found — and heck, just how heinous would that really be? — to be a subscriber to a theory that India are cynical, calculating bullies of cricket, the irony is that in the current landscape he might receive a relative avalanche of sympathy from observers.

Sadly observers do not pull political strings or sign off policy documents … and therein lies a dangerous rub for cricket in South Africa at this worrisome, domestically vulnerable point.

Hardly helped by Lorgat’s prior “complicated” relations with the BCCI while ICC chief executive until mid-2012, it is becoming only painfully more obvious that India is especially revelling in any opportunity, during this realignment of influence, to punch South Africa in the gut. Sometimes in this era of merciless money grabbing so brazenly eclipsing logic and principle, the few good men who still walk corridors have frighteningly little influence and can even be impediments to harmony — however dubiously or immorally such a climate is reached.

With world cricket ever more likely to be governed from a devil’s table, I would argue that it is wretchedly in South Africa’s interests to have a different primary guest at the tawdry banquet.

It could be the only way to stave off squirming around humiliatingly beneath jack-booted feet, looking for crumbs.

As cricket writer Dileep Premachandran, an encouraging dissident voice in India over recent developments, so bluntly put it on this week: “Goliath v Goliath is the future, with the Davids pushed to the margins”.

Possibly even empowered by a sense of personal injustice many (this critic quite likely included) won’t begrudge him, Lorgat has to do the “best interests” thing and step down.

Yes, there would be financial ramifications for CSA to any premature termination of their CEO’s contract, perhaps fairly burdensome ones, but the longer-term bigger picture would have to be simultaneously mulled over in a big way.

I just can’t see any other route for currently loss-making CSA, if they are to ease the all too obvious wrath of the game’s Indian masters — holders of the credit card, to all intents and purposes — and maintain some semblance of influence and restore fair health to the coffers. Can you?

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