Smith: Transformation debate in SA cricket is emotional

Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)
Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Graeme Smith, who was unveiled as national Director of Cricket (DOC) last month, has had his hands full since taking the job and much of those challenges have had to do with the demographic make-up of the national side and its leadership.

While results on the field are an obvious issue, Smith's decision to appoint Mark Boucher as head coach while bringing in a number of consultants - Jacques Kallis (batting), Paul Harris (spin bowling) and Charl Langeveldt (fast bowling) - immediately raised eyebrows. 

Enoch Nkwe, meanwhile, was demoted from his position as acting team director to Boucher's full time assistant coach while Jacques Faul stepped in as acting CEO, replacing the suspended Thabang Moroe.

It didn't help that, at the same time, Temba Bavuma found himself dropped from the Test side.

CSA remains under pressure to reach its annual transformation targets, which stipulate that the Proteas field an average of six players of colour - two of whom must be black African - in their starting XIs in all formats over the course of a calendar year. 

With Kagiso Rabada the only black player in the side for the first three Tests against England, and given that he is now suspended for the fourth Test, the Smith-led administration is behind in terms of those numbers. 

On Tuesday, there were nine players of colour selected in a 15-man squad for the upcoming ODI series against the world champions in February, but speaking to media in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Smith acknowledged that the conversations around race were often emotional. 

He pointed to the previous make-up of the Proteas leadership.

"There's obviously a lot of emotion but if you start looking at the facts around the national side, effectively someone like me replaced Corrie (Van Zyl)," he said.

"We had Claude Henderson, we had Dale Benkenstein, we had an international coach (Ottis Gibson).

"So, if you actually start looking at the numbers, white actually replaced white, but the emotions and sentiment has been different in the media.

"The key for us is to understand it and have a plan."

Smith said that CSA had been spending "hundreds of millions" on development in the country without seeing the rewards. 

That investment, he said, was something he had devoted a lot of time to in his first month in the job. 

"It's massive. When I say hundreds of millions, I mean it," he said.

"It hasn't properly generated the number of quality players that we want across the board, so maybe we can look at being the strategic: having more mentor programmes, getting more scout talents and bringing people through.

"There are a lot of elements to this and growing the game, developing the quality and transforming at the pace that we want to transform at."

Smith further acknowledged the urgency of the need to transform. 

"I'm not asking for patience," he said.

"I'm new in a job and I'm trying to do the best I can to take it forward.

"I think the ODI squad that we picked is very progressive. There are a lot of players at domestic level that have performed well and are now been given an opportunity."

While Smith is currently operating in an acting capacity, he expressed his desire to perform his DOC role on a full-time basis and is embracing the challenge of fielding a quality Proteas side that is representative of the country. 

It is an issue that Smith believes is complex.

"There are a lot of elements to that argument. How do you bring players through? How do you accommodate all the players in our game? What's the best structure to have a high-performing transformed national team? I think there needs to be a look at what the best structure is," he said.

"I've got a good idea of what's going on. It's an ongoing process and you've got to work through the whole system to understand all of that.

"But there are things that are in place.

"The emotion that's been created is not always correct and there are also agendas out there, but maybe we need to do a better job in getting the facts out of there."

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

Proteas ODI squad for England:

Quinton de Kock (captain), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Jon Jon Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lutho Sipamla, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Sisanda Magala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Janneman Malan, Kyle Verreynne 

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