Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander represented all that was good about SA cricket. But Cricket SA’s internal wrangling was a monumental drag on to their own stumps, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku
Former Australian one-day specialist-turned-commentator Dean Jones’ weird comment – when he called Hashim Amla a terrorist – came six years too early.
The year 2012 will be remembered as one in which Amla was a “terrorist” of the batting kind, waging a batting jihad that bowling attacks were helpless to counter.
Runs are scored by any international worth his salt, but the conditions under which they have been scored and where they have been scored separates the wheat from the chaff.
To put this into perspective, India’s Virender Sehwag’s long handle, found wanting against England at home in the recently concluded series, is known for his evisceration of bowlers on flat tracks. H
is big scores often set up matches.
What he doesn’t do is score third and fourth innings hundreds in a manner similar to Steve Waugh.
Amla has a nagging tendency to fade in second Test matches, which gives the opposition a bit of confidence that they may have found a chink in his armour.
But when the stakes – in his case the series and the number one Test ranking and mace – were high, he was all in and wagered high.
His innings had all the art, the anger and the fluidity of a bantamweight.
They are epics often characterised by gritty scrapping along with batting of the highest class.
There may have been all-round contributions from the rest of the top order but his batting this year transcended that of his team-mates.
Without him, the Proteas would have been up the creek, paddleless. His wicket has been the most prized in the South African line-up this year.
What Amla did with the bat, Vernon Philander matched with the ball to devastating effect.
He was the glue that held the Proteas’ bowling attack together and his motto was simple: break the back of the top order so that the voracious Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel can tear into the middle order.
What made Philander stand out – aside from his bustling run-up and simple action – was his immaculate control of line and length, seam and swing. It was distinctive bowling of the highest grade.
Being compared to Glenn McGrath is no mean feat but that was how good he was.
In the corridors, though, cricket’s administrative body, Cricket SA (CSA), was no closer to sorting out its problems.
Changes were swift after retired Judge Chris Nicholson’s report into CSA’s affairs fingered fired chief executive Gerald Majola for contravening sections of the Companies Act when he did not disclose his R1.47 million Indian Premier League bonus.
While they showed early resistance against accepting the Nicholson report, CSA eventually implemented its recommendations.
Conflict again brewed from the Nicholson recommendations that stipulated the appointment of independent board members, with former CSA president, Advocate Norman Arendse, nominated to become the chairman of the independent board.
This move was vetoed by the current board on the grounds that Arendse is an honorary life member of the Western Province Cricket Association.
Arendse approached the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee to intervene in the matter, and they ruled in his favour.
This threw CSA’s annual general meeting into turmoil and it had to be postponed twice. They had to make space for Arendse, a man who now had them by the proverbial balls.
With the players now holding a gun to CSA’s head in declaring a labour dispute, it is clear that they, too, have had enough of the boardroom circus.
If only the administrators could take a few leaves out of their brilliant players’ books.