CSA president refuses to back Smith’s support for Ganguly

Updated 23 May 2020

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“We must respect both the ICC protocol and our own protocol in deciding which candidate to back.” — AFP/File
“We must respect both the ICC protocol and our own protocol in deciding which candidate to back.” — AFP/File

JOHANNESBURG: The divisions in South African cricket were exposed again when Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Chris Nenzani said Graeme Smith’s call for Sourav Ganguly to become International Cricket Council chairman did not have official approval.

“We must respect both the ICC protocol and our own protocol in deciding which candidate to back,” Nenzani, a controversial figure who has stayed in office despite several calls for his resignation, said on Thursday night. “There have been no candidates nominated as yet and once such nominations have been made the Board of CSA will take its decision in terms of its own protocol.”

Smith, CSA’s director of cricket, said at a press conference on Thursday that he believed India’s Ganguly, a fellow former Test captain, was the best man to succeed another Indian Shashank Manohar, whose term as ICC chairman is about to expire.

“We have the highest regard for the opinions of our director of cricket, Graeme Smith, who is a well-respected figure in world cricket and has already made an immense contribution in fulfilling his mandate to make our cricket teams world leaders again,” said Nenzani. “At the moment we don’t want to anticipate any candidates who may be nominated for this important position to lead the game we all love.”

The administration of cricket in South Africa has been in turmoil since the constitution of CSA was changed at the annual meeting last September to allow Nenzani an extra year in office after he had already served the maximum two three-year terms.

The extension was ostensibly to guide the organisation through a new system headed by then-chief executive Thabang Moroe.

But Moroe proved a divisive figure and was suspended in December on charges of misconduct. Before his suspension he had alienated the country’s players’ association and created a storm when he withdrew the accreditation of five journalists who had been critical of him.

A major sponsor ended its relationship with CSA and another sponsor called for the resignation of the board, headed by Nenzani. This call was echoed by the players’ association. Two of CSA’s five independent directors and one non-independent director resigned.

Jacques Faul, chief executive of the successful Titans franchise, was appointed as interim chief executive and Smith took the director of cricket role after initially expressing misgivings.

Since then Faul and Smith have effectively taken charge of running the game in the country, while the board have largely remained in the background — until Nenzani’s statement on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, CSA plan to isolate players and support staff in a ‘bio-bubble’ to minimise their exposure to Covid-19 and hasten a return to play.

CSA has studied the best practises used by the German Bundesliga, which resumed last weekend, and hope to implement them when India are scheduled to visit for three lucrative Twenty20 Internationals in late August.

But the tour remains in doubt as government models suggest the virus could peak in South Africa during August or September.

It poses the question of how to minimise exposure for players, coaches and support staff.

Team doctor Shuaib Manjra said they have worked on a plan, having also liaised with the cricket boards in England and Australia.

“The bio-bubble would be a sanitised cricket biosphere with strict entry standards and limited movement out of this cordon,” he told reporters via a teleconference. “This will require regular testing of all of those within the bubble.

“We want to create a sanitised cricket eco-system that will ensure we account for the entire chain of operations that are sanitised and grant protection to all role-players.

“We have drawn from our colleagues in England and Australia, and we have learned from [football’s] La Liga and the Bundesliga.”

Manjra said they are facing unknown risk factors, including what effect Covid-19 has on the health of infected athletes once they have recovered.

“What is the impact of intense physical activity on players infected with Covid-19 when they return to play? “What happens when one of our players contracts Covid-19, and I have no doubt that many will. When are they safe to return to play and what are the [health] risks to them when they do? We need to understand this.”

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020