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Cricket news - The back-country Sheriff dousing CSA flames
Success at the Titans has made Faul one of the most sought-after administrators in the country
Jacques Faul, who started his second term as Cricket South Africa's (CSA) interim chief executive last week, is a down-to-earth son of the Western Transvaal, a fact that accounts for much of what he is. Faul grew up in a town called Klerksdorp, on the railway line between Johannesburg and Kimberley, wearing his slightly too-long cricket whites for the first time in the 1980s.
"My first club as a youngster was called SASOC, which stands in Afrikaans for the Suid Afrikaan Sport en Ontspannings Club [the SA Sport and Recreation Club]," he tells Cricbuzz. "Our fields were behind the Klerksdorp railway station but it was an open club. We had railway workers there but we also had people from the town. I joined early, as a teenager. That was the beginning of my love for the game."
Klerksdorp, 200 kilometres west of Johannesburg, was a boom town exposed to the mixed blessings of quick mining money. It became prosperous in the 1970s when the South African gold mines started expanding into the then Orange Free State and the Western Transvaal, but some of its lustre has since faded.
Boom times led to an explosion of the workforce which in turn led to more disposable income and leisure time. Afrikaner miners, middle managers and engineers had always played rugby but now they felt culturally self-confident enough to try their hand at cricket - the English game.
It was a phase of self-assertion, the flexing of Afrikaans muscle. Afrikaans men and boys wanted to follow in the footsteps of Peter van der Merwe and Ewie Cronje, Hansie's dad, and even - this came afterwards - Hansie Cronje himself.
Years later Faul moved from the Railways club to Klerksdorp Cricket Club, better-resourced and richer, where he played, captained the first X1 and eventually became club president. He learned to balance teams and balance the books. He learned to talk straight but be fair, and he learned the craft and cunning that made him good in committee. "I was a bowler," he says. "I took the new ball, yes, but I'd be careful not to call myself a fast-bowler, my old Western Transvaal mates would have a good laugh at that. Let's just say I was a bowler."
Looking back there seems to be an air of inevitability to Faul becoming an administrator. This doesn't mean, however, that his cricket-playing memories aren't cherished. He remembers the day, for example, when he played against a Transvaal team containing Adam Bacher, Nic Pothas and Graham Yates, losing a three-day game to them inside two days, but taking their revenge by beating them in a 50-over game tucked onto that.
"We once found ourselves playing against Lance Klusener's KwaZulu-Natal," Faul says. "I think it was for Western Transvaal under-23. He hit me for four sixes in an over. After the second six I walked down the wicket - us Western Transvaal boys can always give a bit of lip - and I told him cricket wasn't a highlights package, and it was clear that he would never amount to anything, so he hit me for two more.
"My old mates still remind me of that one."
After his experience at Klerksdorp CC came a legal degree and a job as chief executive officer at the North-West Dragons, the Western Transvaal having become the North-West under the new democratic dispensation.
Faul did well at North-West. He turned a profit and started either attracting or producing some good players (Chris Morris had a spell there, as did Eddie Leie, the leg-spinner). He also started learning about the broader South African game because by now North-West were a junior partner with Gauteng, with their headquarters at the Wanderers. Slowly he started developing a reputation for being a tough-minded and sometimes tough talking administrator.
The sheriff label really stuck when Faul was seconded into the CSA chief executive role when then-Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula, threatened the entire CSA board with dismissal, a smart gambit which allowed them to discover a belated conscience and turn on their embattled chief executive, Gerald Majola. The 18 months that followed were trying but rewarding for Faul. "One of my proudest moments was when we went number one in the world in all three formats just after our Lord's victory against England in 2012," he says. "That was something I'll always look back on with pride."
Faul had been a contact of mine in the period when Majola's credibility leaked away, and when he took over the interim CSA role, he offered me a job. We remain friends, with yours truly sometimes acting in an honorary advisory capacity. "It's the only time I've ever offered somebody a job because I was lonely," he reflects. "I wanted someone to eat my sandwiches with and Luke was the lucky man."
He was never going to last in the CSA position because Haroon Lorgat's role as International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive was coming to an end and Lorgat was shoe-horned into the CSA job in a full-time capacity.
Faul, meanwhile, was offered the chief executive position at the Titans, a position he accepted with relish. It was a less-scrutinised post, with less pressure and fewer politics, so in many ways it was ideal. The six years were successful, both commercially and from a cricketing perspective.
He lost coach Rob Walter to Otago (and lost some of the union's favourite sons, like Albie Morkel and Roelof van der Merwe) but he was brave enough to give Mark Boucher his first coaching opportunity and witness first-hand the emergence of Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi and Tony de Zorzi. "Aiden's a special kid - I've got a lot of time for him," says Faul. "I just wish he wouldn't call me 'Oom' [grandfather] or 'Mr. Faul' all the time."
Success at the Titans has made Faul one of the most sought-after administrators in the country - job offers have come in from many quarters, including rugby's Sharks franchise, one of SA's biggest sporting brands.
Last week he became acting CSA chief executive for the second time in seven years, the mad reign of Thabang Moroe having finally reached a tipping point. By his own admission Faul has found a "poor culture with poor morale", with six suspensions and all kinds of financial and human resource irregularities bedevilling the organisation.
His short-term goals are to douse the flames with the fire extinguisher of common sense. He must open up a front with the SA Cricketers' Association (SACA), with whom CSA have been in dispute since Moroe took over two years ago, but an entente might be more difficult than it seems, because the CSA board remains in place despite another resignation on Wednesday night (link to Telford's piece). Earlier this week SACA said in a press release that they were "astounded" that the CSA board "refuses to take responsibility for cricket's deep, deep crisis".
After that Faul must create at least temporary structures around the national team ahead of their four-Test series against England beginning in Centurion on Boxing Day. On Wednesday Graeme Smith confirmed that he will become interim director of cricket until the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) and there is talk in the wings of the possibility of appointing a coach the players will respect, like Ashwell Prince or Boucher.
Then - grabbing a mince pie and turkey drumstick as he goes - he should look to improve CSA's non-existent relationship with satellite broadcaster SuperSport, and try and bring back sponsor Standard Bank, who withdrew last week in the wake of the crisis that saw three independent directors resign.
Further afield, he needs to start finding a broader set of income streams for South African cricket, which is stuck in a sluggish economy. One of the ironies of Lorgat being fired just as the T20 Global League was about to hit its straps was that Lorgat's model was outward-looking, in that all the franchises then were foreign-owned.
In an attempt to address the issue of foreign ownership, CSA probably went too far in the opposite direction with the inaugural edition of the Mzansi Super League (MSL) by bringing all functions in-house. From a risk perspective, this is understandable, but CSA desperately needs to widen its revenue base, particularly with projected sales of future broadcast rights way, way down. Now that CSA have wagered on two editions of the MSL, they need to find a way of making money from it, or at least breaking even.
Most of all, Faul needs to keep his sense of humour. CSA supremos don't have a great track record of seeing life's funny side. Ali Bacher was notoriously humourless, and, as for Lorgat, laughter didn't exist.
Faul is different. People call him uncle or granddad. They laugh at him, sometimes behind his back. Hell, when the sheriff isn't riding into town on his white charger, he even laughs at himself.
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