Side Entry: Graeme Smith’s appointment leaves more questions

Simnikiwe Xabanisa
Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Now that CSA finally has its director of cricket, there seem to be more questions than answers.

The courtship of former Proteas captain Graeme Smith for the role began as far back as August, but now that he has “signed” four months later, it’s difficult to work out whether the chase has been worth it.

The eye-catching detail of the deal is the fact that it is only for three months because CSA’s arse-about-face approach to sealing it meant Smith ended up signing a contract to commentate in the IPL before it was concluded.

It is a sign of the position of weakness from which CSA was negotiating that a job in which putting structures aimed at sustaining the whole system in place could only be given to someone who could only pay attention to it for three months.

The obvious question to ask is how much long-term success Smith can attain in his three months at the helm.
Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Hopefully without being disrespectful to all involved in thrashing it out, this is a deal made up almost exclusively of the kind of exit strategies any rugby team would be proud of, when it should actually be about committing to properly fixing South African cricket.

When your ideal candidate is appointed on a temporary basis, you haven’t got much to work with, because even the marquee position of the organisation’s roadmap is a Band-Aid situation like the acting chief executive and interim team director roles.

The obvious question to ask is how much long-term success Smith can attain in his three months at the helm.

A big part of why outgoing Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus was able to succeed so quickly after taking over the Boks was the fact that as SA Rugby’s High Performance Manager a few years before, he had laid foundations which meant he could pick up from where he’d left off when he returned to the country in the head coach capacity.

How will any of us be able to judge at the conclusion of Smith’s stint if he has succeeded or not? Will we wait until a year from now and credit him with a job well done when another director of cricket is in charge?

Speaking of that director of cricket, will he or she be appointed at Smith’s recommendation to get some kind of continuity in place?

It’s almost as if “Biff” will be padding up himself when Boxing Day, the first day of the first test against England, rolls around.
Simnikiwe Xabanisa

If anything, the mere fact that CSA agreed to a deal heavily leveraged in favour of Smith suggests they subscribe to the idea of a messiah who will wave a magic wand and make it alright again.

In all fairness to CSA, we also seem to as well as the public: I saw a tweet warning Joe Root – captain of the incoming English team – about Smith’s track record of having been a catalyst to many an English captain losing his job.

It’s almost as if “Biff” will be padding up himself when Boxing Day, the first day of the first test against England, rolls around.

The other question to ask is whether Smith will be responsible for appointing the team director on a permanent basis. If he is, will that decision be binding if or when he is replaced by another director of cricket?

The great thing about having Smith installed is that the credibility he brings as the most successful test captain in history, and the first South African captain to lead the Proteas to a series win in Australia, he is in a position to rope in fellow SA legends like Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis, who may not necessarily have wanted to be involved with CSA.

That said, will they still want to be involved after Smith leaves or will those also be Band-Aid deals? So much for CSA finding the director of cricket of its dreams.

Follow me @simxabanisa

Sim's the man

City Press sports reporter and columnist Simnikiwe Xabanisa was a big winner at the 39th Annual SAB Sports Media Awards, which recognise excellence in sporting journalism.

Xabanisa’s peers voted for him to receive this year’s sports journalists’ journalist of the year award. He also walked away with the sports columnist of the year award.

Congratulating Xabanisa, City Press editor in chief Mondli Makhanya said he was not surprised by the accolades.

He said Xabanisa was a shining beacon of sports journalism, mainly because he tackled subjects that others shied away from, such as racism and transformation in sports.

“He has demonstrated over time that he is passionate about his beats – rugby and cricket – and does not take sides,” said Makhanya.

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