In the land of T20 cricket, Biff worth more than Toyana

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - There has been a significant backlash to Benoni Zalmi's decision to appoint Graeme Smith as head coach for the upcoming T20 Global League ahead of Geoff Toyana, who will serve as his assistant.

The outrage is understandable. 

Smith has never coached a team before while Toyana is in the running for the top job in the land having led the Highveld Lions with aplomb for the past five years. 

Along the way, Toyana has emerged as one of the most respected coaches in the country, so on the surface this decision is puzzling.

It is also the first shining example of how this tournament will not, as is the case in domestic cricket, be putting transformation at the forefront of its agenda. 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) provided each franchise owner with a list of coaches currently in or around the South African system, but the decision of who to appoint ultimately came down to the franchises themselves. 

But before we start spitting fire at this seemingly strange move, we need to put it into perspective. 

T20 cricket these days is just as much about entertainment and money as it is winning matches. Some would argue that the winning is even less important than the cashing in. 

These franchise owners, ultimately, have invested in this tournament because they want to see a financial return. And while lifting the trophy would obviously be great for them, at this stage it is all about putting their newly-acquired brands on the map. 

Smith might have no coaching experience, but he is a massive name in world cricket. He has significant pull with the Indian audience and will command attention every time he answers questions at a pre or post-match interview. 

Comparing Smith to Toyana in the coaching game is like comparing Danny Morrison to Mike Atherton in the commentary box. To suggest that Morrison offers more insight than Atherton would be as absurd as thinking that Smith offers more than Toyana as a head coach. 

Atherton is thoughtful, analytical and never shoots from the hip. He inspects every ball, scrutinising the batters and bowlers, using his experience to provide thought-provoking questions and answers. 

Morrison, on the other hand, has made a name for himself because he is loud and slightly ridiculous. He shouts his way through a commentary stint and, while his passion is unrivaled, he provides very little in the way of actual cricketing analysis. 

If it was just about cricket, then Atherton would always be a better fit than someone like Morrison. 

But, in the fast-paced roller-coaster that is a game of IPL cricket, Morrison offers more to the overall product and is thus more valuable. 

It is for similar reasons that, as a figure-head, Smith offers more than Toyana. 

If it was all about cricket and winning trophies, Toyana would undoubtedly be a more logical appointment than Smith. 

Unfortunately, T20 cricket these days is about much more than just cricket. It's a business, and business is about money. 

That said, having the likes of Smith involved in the tournament is absolutely a positive thing for South African cricket. While he is untested as a coach, Smith is a big character - the finest South African captain yet - and he commands respect.

He has a lot to offer the game and, at a time where the future is a little uncertain, the more involved former players of Smith's stature are, the better. 

Any young player who sits next to Smith in a dugout or listens to him at a training session will emerge better for that experience. 

So don't view this appointment as an indictment of Toyana's ability. It isn't. Instead, understand it for what it is. 

Toyana has a massive future in South African cricket. CSA has invested in him and he will coach the national side, even if it is after the Ottis Gibson era. 

But for a T20 hit-around that is aimed at pocketing as much moola as possible? Well, Geoff just isn't 'sexy' enough for that. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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