TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
BETWEEN them, the four members of the review panel Cricket SA (CSA) have appointed to investigate some of the challenges the game faces have played 112 first-class matches, 149 list A games, and 24 T20s.
Sounds decent. Except that all of those caps belong to Adam Bacher – the only one among the four who has experience at the level that will be the panel’s focus.
Which is not to doubt the credentials of the others. Dawn Mokhobo, who as one of CSA’s independent board members will lead the probe, is an accomplished businesswoman. Russ Tucker is SA’s pre-eminent sports scientist. Francois Pienaar is Francois Pienaar, World Cup winner and unofficial headboy to the nation.
Moreover, the decision to make the probe largely independent of people currently attached to CSA is laudable.
But what does it say to the game in this country that an important examination of its state of health will be conducted largely by people with little first-hand knowledge of what they are investigating?
Or does finding out what goes wrong for SA at tournament time – the review was prompted by their first-round crash out of the World T20 in India last month – require a different set of skills that people cannot be expected to have simply because they have played cricket at a high level?
“To have a HR person (Mokhobo, a former ESKOM senior human resources manager) in charge of a cricket review doesn’t sit that well; I don’t think it’s appropriate,” former SA test batsman Barry Richards said on Wednesday.
“I don’t have a problem if they’re reviewing the finances or a strategic plan. But if you’re reviewing cricket I think you need cricketers.
“There are some eminently capable people to do that but they’re not on the radar, sadly. If you’re looking for people who have done well in business there’s someone like (former United Cricket Board president) Ray White. He’s definitely persona non grata but I wonder whether he could have some serious input.”
Richards also wondered out loud about how “open and honest” the review would be. He might, then, be given hope by Tucker’s involvement.
“I’ve always tried to be outspoken and direct, candid and honest,” Tucker said on Wednesday. “So if I get any inkling of a failure on CSA’s part to take this process seriously and give it the necessary weight, then I will be vocal about that, too.”
Tucker was listed as a “sports physiologist” when CSA named the panel but he is a lot more besides.
Besides serving as professor of exercise physiology with the school of medicine at the University of the Free State, he is World Rugby’s head of research with a twin focus: high performance and injury prevention.
He has consulted for Sweden’s Olympic committee, and the Football Association and Rugby Football Union, both in England, on developing young players and creating a culture of excellence.
After investigating SA’s poor performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Tucker produced a 12-year plan to hike standards in all Olympic codes.
His proposal was not adopted because of political infighting between the suits, but some sports have taken up his ideas on their own initiative.
Perhaps cricket will, too.