Interim No More – Time for Action
Roughly two hours and 40 minutes after the confirmation Pholetsi Moseki as the permanent Chief Executive Officer of Cricket South Africa, there was a phone call from an influential figure in world cricket enquiring about the ‘personality and nature’ of the man.
Moseki has theoretically had his hand on the both the steering wheel and rudder of South African cricket for over a year and yet one of the most influential business personalities in the global game had made no effort to acquaint himself with Moseki purely because he didn’t want to ‘waste my time’ on an ‘interim.’
He wasn’t alone. Cricket South Africa has been in limbo for over two years, first with Kugandrie Govender as interim CEO and then with CFO Moseki’s appointment on a temporary basis. It is to his great credit that the organisation has simply continued to function, one foot in front of the other, but it was impossible to make meaningful progress.
Personal relationships are important in all businesses but they are vital in the sports and entertainment industry where people rather than products lie at the heart of success. It isn’t just the executives and directors of other national boards around the world who have backed away from South Africa during this period, it is sponsors and broadcasters – both national and global.
The outdated and dysfunctional board was one thing, but without a full-time executive the lack of trust, or even interest, in South African cricket was wafer-thin. Moseki has a herculean task ahead of him, made even harder by the fact that some of the key requirements may not come naturally to a man without a reputation in the game, on or off the field, and is not naturally comfortable in front of an audience, live or electronic.
Chief amongst those requirements is the restoration of the public’s faith in the primacy of the game. There is deep disappointment amongst the country’s Test cricket lovers that five first-choice players chose the IPL ahead of the series against Bangladesh but the extent of the damage their choice will cause in the future is immeasurable at the moment. But it will be seen in years to come. The long-term effect could be catastrophic on many different levels.
How can the country’s cricket supporters expect to choose the Proteas as their sports entertainment priority when the best players don’t? Whatever the realities, like the pressure from the IPL teams and financial pragmatism, and however justified the players are in choosing to fly to Mumbai instead of Durban for T20 cricket rather than Test cricket, the backlash from their collective decision will be severe.
If CSA had been able to appoint a high profile CEO with ready-made kudos and influence in the game, he would have been front and centre in a campaign of ‘damage limitation’ when the players collectively chose the IPL. He would have actively assured supporters that the players were fully committed to the national team and that every effort would be made in the future to ensure that this situation would never happen again.
Sadly, CSA’s reputation has sunk so low, along with their budgets, that such an appointment was not possible. And while the board is obsessed with persecution rather than progress, the only man commanding international respect, Director of Cricket Graeme Smith, is gagged during an arbitration process with his employers.
Why has there been no comment from the players? Why has Rabada, for example, not reassured the cricket lovers of South Africa that his first priority is to play for them? Nothing from any of them. Is there nobody at CSA who can explain that they look like guilty miscreants, caught with their hands in the cash-box while everybody else is taking their own lunch to work?
It is unfair to expect Moseki, a diligent, committed and efficient administrator, to be a rousing vocal and visual figurehead leading South African cricket back to the seat at the head table of the game it once occupied. He has done a commendable job just maintaining a seat in the room.
The phone call referenced in the first paragraph was made to me. No clearer evidence of the outer circle in which South African cricket has stumbled. A man responsible for the negotiation of multi-million dollar television rights deals calling a commentator, writer, for the lowdown on a man with whom he should be intimately acquainted.
And the worst part? I wasn’t able to help much. Just like him, I was waiting and saving my energy for the full-time appointment. Now that he is in-situ, he deserves the greatest group-hug cricket lovers can offer. He has done a remarkable job in rotten circumstances. If he is courageous enough to delegate roles to the right people, and is not blocked by the minority of dinosaurs on the board, he might even be remembered as a saviour in years to come.