Cape Town – Just how much more unsavoury, incompetent, idiotic, unlovable and autocratic does the Cricket South Africa hierarchy have to get before it either implodes of its own accord or is given the heave-ho which a mounting lobby of horrified cricket people so clearly desires?
It is something you have to believe – or at very least hope – finally requires tangible intervention from global umbrella body the International Cricket Council.
Don’t get your hopes too high: there is a widespread perception that the ICC cares more greatly about its “big three” commercial-clout powers these days (India, England and Australia) than anything else.
Very much still alongside that group as an on-field juggernaut up to a year or two ago, South Africa’s tumble toward a significantly more minnow-in-character status – a widening pack, I fear - has gathered violent steam subsequently.
CSA, under the watch of controversially re-entrenched president Chris Nenzani and CEO Thabang Moroe, is currently beset by multi-pronged chaos, which may even be putting it mildly.
The Proteas’ woes are merely an almost inevitable extension of the boardroom rot.
It is in oppressive financial strife, dogged by complex, in-house litigation on several fronts, has overseen a flight of once loyal, blue-chip sponsors and broadcasters, and has generally, in a spectacular welter of dithering and interim-themed appointments to key positions, shown all the parallels of a crumbling, haemorrhaging South African parastatal where a select few perversely so often still manage to prosper.
On Sunday, just the latest lamentable titbit of information to come from CSA’s corridors was that it had revoked the accreditation of long-serving, Highveld-based cricket scribe Stuart Hess – a trend later revealed to involve a handful of other victims.
It was a cruel, cynical step, especially coming as it did against one of the sadly thinning corps of dedicated reporters who loyally, routinely trudge to the near-wasteland that is domestic franchise/first-class cricket to try to keep its flame of public attention burning as defiantly as possible.
It is not hard to surmise that Hess’s muzzling –at least as it would affect his physical attendance of matches – was linked to his rightful recent exposure of dumbfounding, defensive statements, if true, by CSA’s new head of media and communications, Thamie Mthembu.
These included that he reportedly didn’t know “any reader who would be interested” when pressed to reveal exactly who – in the absence of a stable, confirmed panel - would be selecting the SA squad for the looming home Test series against England.
If that isn’t an awful pointer to a public-be-damned, commissar culture enveloping CSA, it is difficult to know what is.
Later on Sunday, Hess tweeted that he had suddenly received an email revealing that accreditation had been “approved” … seemingly some kind of grudging change of heart, at least in his case.
However this specific issue plays out, though, all it does is underline the sense of high farce that accompanies episodes of heavy-handedness and erratic tendencies from the CSA bigwigs these days.
This press censorship move has been perhaps the most sinister, worrisome development of modern CSA’s tawdry pile of them, really.
It reeks of desperate, reckless paranoia.
So much so, I am just beginning to suspect, that it might well – and with fairly pleasing irony, if so – trigger the demise of frontline figures through their own, straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back folly.
If it wasn’t known to the fullest extent already, the weekend saga has certainly left in no doubt to overwhelmingly solidarity-inclined cricket journalists planet-wide (disbelieving and angry reactions have flooded in on Twitter) that CSA affairs are increasingly the stuff of the circus.
Renowned domestic political commentator and cricket lover Judith February tweeted over the accreditation fiasco: “Disgrace … can someone save us from @OfficialCSA and its shameful administrators? This is a democracy!”
The current CSA - at least at its top table, but with a seemingly compliant (and/or cowed?) tables two, three and four – increasingly seems the very antithesis of a service-conscious cricket administration.
It has strong shades of a shameless, jackboot politburo, bringing no credit to our supposedly freed country, and its practices must be stopped in a hurry.
Or are we prepared to idly tolerate the prospect of CSA accelerating a gestapo-like march toward patterns closely related to a lamentable flashpoint “heyday” of the neighbouring Zimbabwe Cricket Union in periods stained by Robert Mugabe’s evil influence?
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing