KZN's son's take on the world

2011-10-22 00:00

IT’S been a productive week for sport in KwaZulu-Natal. Certainly the sporting community ought to celebrate the fact that three of its sons have secured positions of responsibility in their sports.

It is no small thing to be plucked from peers and put in charge of a team or body or match. As sundry cricket captains, administrators and rugby referees could confirm, none of the posts is a cinch. Hashim Amla, AK Khan and Craig Joubert deserve a pat on the back and a stiff whiskey (or possibly sweet lassi in the cricketer’s case).

Amla has started well as captain. That his team have mostly been outplayed is not his fault. Australia are on the tip of their toes; the Proteas look flat-footed. South Africa’s only victory came by dint of a lusty lower-order partnership and some curious tactics by Cameron White, who saved his worst for last. Overall the Aussies have been sharper and the feeling grows that the worst is over for them.

Of course the visitors have always played more cricket than their hosts, whose rustiness showed. Some sportsmen can turn up after a long break and immediately pick up the pieces. Every season Bill Alley, a cranky Aussie all-rounder who bowled medium pace for Somerset in the 1960s, used to take bets that he could land his first delivery on a dinner plate, and every year he used to collect. Dale Steyn is not of that ilk.

However, Amla led the team with patience and aplomb. Luckily it is not in his nature to get flustered. Captains have a lot on their plate. In a trice they are expected to set fields, determine batting orders, encourage speedsters, comfort tweakers, choose 12th men, talk to reporters, declare, serve as weathermen and psychologists and keep their families happy. Ricky Ponting hardly had time to think about his own game.

Amla has acquitted himself capably. He is an intelligent and accomplished young man respected by his team-mates and liked by his opponents. Still, he will be happy to hand over to AB de Villiers once he is fit again. His primary task is to score lots of runs for his country and to steady his captain when things go wrong. Cricket captains live and die with every ball — ever seen one with a full crop of hair? — and need a reliable deputy and a strong group of seniors to back them up.

AK Khan has taken over the presidency of Cricket South Africa. At present he is a stand-in, but his appointment will be confirmed at the next opportunity. He comes across as a sincere man, passionate about the game and with a strong sense of justice and an ability to perform his duties on his own terms because he is also a businessman. Unlike its Australian counterpart, the CSA presidency is an honorary position so private means are essential.

In short, he has many of the qualities needed to lift CSA from its current malaise.

Doubtless Khan is as dismayed as everyone else that CSA has dominated the cricketing headlines. Administrators ought to be seen and not heard. He inherits a deplorable situation in which trust has broken down within CSA and between CSA and the public.

His first task is to change that, and he can begin by publishing the KPMG report demanded by the high court.

If it confirms that a lot of money went into the wrong hands as critics claim, then heads ought to roll and prosecutions ought to begin. Khan has the backing of the overwhelming number of provinces, support that ought not to be taken lightly. Either CSA is a huge criminal conspiracy or Mtutuzeli Nyoka, the deposed leader, is a stirrer with a weak case. Steve Waugh wants cricketers to take lie detector tests. Considering the match-fixing case under way in England he has a point, but administrators ought to go first.

Regardless, CSA needs to get its house in order. Khan is the man for the job. Put it this way, he’s more impressive than previous occupants. From Joe Pamenksy and Ali Bacher to Ray Mali and Norman Arendse, CSA has been poorly served by its leaders. Perhaps that is about to change. Even so, CSA needs to improve its communications and transparency. After all it has nothing to hide, does it?

As regards Craig Joubert and his whistle, it’s a great honour to be chosen to referee a World Cup final. He is at the top of his profession, a specialist task to be studied on its own merits. Joubert will make mistakes, but he is unflappable and will let the players get on with it as best he can. If his name is not mentioned afterwards he will know he has served his purpose. That’s all any of the trio can say, or the rest of us for that matter.

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