Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - SA will have to find a way to live with Boucher, Bavuma issues. South Africa have won four of their last six series under Boucher.
South Africa have won four of their last six series under Boucher.
There are two kinds of cricket-minded South Africans. One wants Mark Boucher fired as coach. The other wants Temba Bavuma removed as white-ball captain. With some exceptions, the former are black or brown and the latter white.
Shallow, shrill politicking has destroyed the legitimate debates those issues might have generated had they been discussed with integrity and respect for the opposing view. Instead, South Africans have retreated into the same old laagers with tedious, transparent, dishonest, disappointing predictability. Cricket in their country deserves better supporters.
The ugly noise being made about Bavuma is particularly spurious. He has won trophies in all three formats with the Lions, and in Grenada in July he steered South Africa to success in a T20I series against West Indies – the current world champions – that went down to a decider.
Keshav Maharaj's canny captaincy in a 3-0 T20I whitewash of Sri Lanka in Colombo in September – when Bavuma was injured – highlighted the leadership depth in the squad. It was only right to wonder whether Maharaj might be a better option as captain at the T20 WC, especially as conditions in the UAE and Oman, where the tournament will be played from October 17 to November 14, are similar to Sri Lanka's. Regardless, Maharaj's intellectual input, especially on matters of spin, will be invaluable.
But, in social media's cesspools, the Bavuma haters took Maharaj's performance as licence to heap opprobrium on the object of their disaffection. Much the same people said little about South Africa losing 13 of their 23 completed matches under the captaincy of Quinton de Kock.
Boucher has had a target on his back since he was appointed in December 2019. At first he was hoist with the petard of credentialism – he has only a level two coaching certificate – despite having won five titles across the formats with the Titans. Then the fire was fuelled by South Africa losing seven of their first nine series under him. They have since won four of their last six and drawn another.
It took testimony at CSA's Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings in July to drag Boucher's suitability for his position back into the spotlight. Like all the players of his era, he was party to a dressing room culture poisoned by racism. That is hardly surprising given the sorry state of South African society in the 1990s and early 2000s. But, like the rest of the white players of that time, Boucher did not work to remove racism from the dressing room as he became more senior in the team.
Boucher has filed a responding affidavit to the SJN in which he admits and apologises for his role and acknowledges his failure to remedy what he encountered: the first figure implicated to do so. As coach, he is playing an important part in nurturing a healthier, more inclusive team culture. Even so, it is fair to ask whether he should keep his job.
That decision rests with CSA's board. Its chairperson, Lawson Naidoo, told Cricbuzz: “We've got to allow this [SJN] process to run its course properly. We don't want to interfere with what they're doing. The issues around Boucher emanated there. He's now responded.
“The responsibility is on the ombudsman [Dumisa Ntsebeza] to weigh the evidence that's presented to him and come up with a set of findings and maybe even recommendations. We'll deal with it at that point. It would be premature for us to step in now and do anything having basically heard only one side of the story.”
The SJN hearings are in recess and will resume on Monday (October 18) with testimony from those who are in the same boat as Boucher – who will be preparing his team for their T20 WC opener against Australia in Abu Dhabi five days later. The timing is not ideal, but putting progress towards the righting of the wrongs of racism on hold for the sake of mere cricket would be an outrage.
The board that Naidoo leads has been in place since June. It inherited rot and ruin from the overgrown delinquents in CSA's previous leadership. The SJN is not among them. Instead it is the first part of a difficult conversation cricket must have, and keep having, with itself if it hopes to be part of a better future.
“We're fully committed to [the SJN] as a board,” Naidoo said. “Before I even got anywhere near the board I remember writing a piece in the middle of last year saying how important a process like this is going to be for South African cricket. I haven't changed my view on that.”
On July 27 last year, almost 11 months before he joined the board and three days after CSA announced the establishment of the SJN in the wake of allegations of racism in cricket, Naidoo – a constitutional law expert and a prominent commentator on current affairs – told radio station 702: “There needs to be an independent hand guiding this process, which is why I call of some sort of independent inquiry comprised of very well-respected and totally untainted people involved to help cricket in South Africa steer itself out of this mess that the board has been complicit in.
“We have seen the pain and the hurt that has been expressed by many former cricketers. It is understandable that many current cricketers have suddenly come forward because we need to create a safe space for that to happen and I believe only an independent inquiry of that nature can provide that safe space.”
Little could he have known then that the buck for making that happen would stop with him. “Yes, being in the hot seat makes it somewhat different because we're going to have to receive that report from the ombudsman and deal with it,” Naidoo said in his interview with Cricbuzz. “But, as uncomfortable as it has been, it's an absolutely necessary process.
“We can't avoid these issues any longer. If you want to move the game forward there comes a time when you're going to have to tackle them. Not everyone's going to be happy with what is being said and what the ombudsman's findings and recommendations may be, but we're going to have to take that in our stride and do our best to move the game forward.”
That's not all that needs doing. Since Thabang Moroe was suspended at the height of CSA's administrative and governance crisis in December 2019 – he was fired in August last year after being found guilty of serious misconduct – the position has been filled in an acting capacity by Jacques Faul, Kugandrie Govender and Pholetsi Moseki. In July, Govender, formerly CSA's chief commercial officer, was sacked after being convicted of serious misconduct and gross incompetence.
Naidoo admitted that “the administrative instability is hampering CSA” but raised hopes that brighter days were ahead: “We're hoping to conduct interviews within the next couple of weeks, and announce a new CEO within the next few weeks. This is not an easy position to fill. It's not like looking for the CEO of a company. This is a very complex organisation with a myriad expectations and challenges, from grassroots development programmes through to the Proteas and everything inbetween.
“We're looking for an exceptional person to run this organisation, someone who's going to be able to pull it all together. We've gone through a very robust process in trying to identify the right set of candidates. Hopefully we'll make the right choice and give them the time and the freedom to do what needs to be done.”
Moseki – who was appointed chief financial officer in July 2019 – has been acting chief executive since December, and has succeeded in keeping CSA's daily doings off the front pages. “We can't pay him enough credit for the role that he's played in stabilising the ship and keeping things afloat, and really running the organisation extremely well given the limited capacity he has around him,” Naidoo said. “We don't have a chief commercial officer, we don't have a chief operating officer, we don't have a company secretary.”
But CSA do have a team led by a committed coach and a confident captain heading into a World Cup, and a vital, valuable dialogue about the state of the game ongoing at home. The challenge is not to let any of that be poisoned by shallow, shrill politicking of two kinds of cricket-minded South Africans.