What’s the cul­ture of SA cricket and what would we want to change?

Sunday Times - - Sport Cricket/results -

● Hard on the out­side, soft on the in­side? Fo­cused too in­tently on win­ning and not on trans­form­ing? The other way round?

Com­pla­cently ex­pect­ing to keep at­tract­ing young talent de­spite the bet­ter op­tions of­fered in other ca­reers, in­clud­ing out­side sport?

A gov­er­nance and fi­nan­cial mess? What would we find out if SA cricket took the kind of with­er­ing look at it­self that the game in Aus­tralia has in its “cul­ture re­view”?

First we’ll need to es­tab­lish what we think the cul­ture of cricket is in SA. Or what we’re will­ing to ac­cept it is af­ter care­ful dis­cus­sion and, prob­a­bly, ne­go­ti­a­tion. Then, fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar set of pro­cesses, we’ll have to de­cide what we want to change. And how.

Lit­tle comes eas­ily in a coun­try as will­fully di­vided as ours, where the cricket-minded haven’t quite got their heads around what the Aussies are do­ing.

“When it hap­pened we thought that was harsh on the play­ers ’cause there’s been so many play­ers who have been in sim­i­lar boats,” Faf du Plessis said in Ade­laide this week when he was asked, by Aus­tralian re­porters, about the fair­ness of the long bans Cricket Aus­tralia slapped on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Ban­croft for ball-tam­per­ing dur­ing the New­lands Test in March.

“But I wasn’t [in Aus­tralia] to un­der­stand how the peo­ple were af­fected by it or of­fended by it. The back­lash that we saw in SA was mas­sive.

The re­ac­tion to what the Aussies got up to was out­ra­geous

“We could see it’s prob­a­bly big­ger in Aus­tralia than it has been or will be any­where else in the world.”

Not least in SA, where Du Plessis’s own con­vic­tions for ball-tam­per­ing never raised any­thing like the stink that still fol­lows Smith, Warner and Ban­croft.

For Aus­tralians to claim in­no­cent shock at the sud­denly re­vealed aw­ful­ness of their cricket team is akin to be­ing hor­ri­fied at the con­fir­ma­tion of a part­ner’s af­fair hav­ing cho­sen to ig­nore, for years, lip­stick on col­lars.

But the re­ac­tion to what the Aussies got up to with a lit­tle sand­pa­per and a lot of ly­ing was out­ra­geous. Why should the prime min­is­ter have cared? Why should spon­sor­ship deals have been can­celled?

Still, Du Plessis might have thought twice about slob­ber­ing heav­ily minted spit on the ball in Ho­bart in 2016 had Cricket SA (CSA) taken a more proac­tive and sup­port­ive at­ti­tude to him rub­bing the ball on his zip in Dubai in 2013.

Sim­i­larly, had CSA let Kag­iso Rabada serve the pun­ish­ment he had earned for shoul­der charg­ing Smith dur­ing the St Ge­orge’s Park Test last sea­son — in­stead of spend­ing what­ever it takes to get Dali Mpofu in the fast bowler’s cor­ner — maybe he wouldn’t have got into Chris Lynn’s face in Ade­laide on Fri­day.

A health­ier cul­ture would have dealt bet­ter with both Du Plessis and Rabada. One day, maybe.

The Lead­ing Edge Telford Vice

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