SA cricket battling with ‘cancer’ and ‘chaos’ – Graeme Smith

CSA director of cricket and former Proteas captain Graeme Smith. Picture: Gallo Images

Graeme Smith says the domestic governing body for cricket is struggling to move forward due to a lack of trust and a sense of chaos.

Cricket South Africa director of cricket Graeme Smith has described the leaks coming from the organisation – many of which have promoted falsehoods targeting him personally – as a “cancer” which is not being addressed by the organisation’s board.

With the beleaguered national federation struggling to stay afloat, it continued to be rocked by controversy this week.

Already facing losses of close to a billion rand before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, CSA had not made any meaningful progress on the charges laid against former CEO Thabang Moroe after a forensic audit, and it was trying to douse the flames of allegations that its transformation programmes had failed.

Following the news a few days earlier that acting CEO Jacques Faul would step down next month, Smith addressed the media at the weekend, revealing some of the issues he had faced after his contract details were leaked and an apparently fraudulent document circulated which alleged he was a shareholder in 3TCricket.

“These leaks are a cancer within the organisation and you just wonder who in a senior position would do this? What is their end goal? It’s clearly a high-profile person because of some of the stuff that has been leaked,” Smith said.

“This kind of thing doesn’t help build relations. It feels like some people have ulterior motives, so we end up spending all our time speaking about these things and not the game.

“I have written a few e-mails about it to the president (Chris Nenzani), the board and the company secretary (Welsh Gwaza), who has been part of all my processes, and there hasn’t been a huge response. But it was good to see the president put a few things straight in an article today and there are a lot of very good people in CSA, especially at staff level, in cricket services.”

Graeme Smith addressing the media in a virtual press conference. Picture: Gallo Images

While Smith defended his appointment as director of cricket by saying he had gone through the whole chain of appropriate processes, and he was keen to continue in the role, the former Proteas captain added that he would step aside if there was someone better equipped for the job.

Responding to various allegations, he also defended his choice of Mark Boucher for the role of national coach.

“I feel I have been extremely unfairly targeted over the appointments. I feel there’s a bit of an agenda,” he said.

“It comes back to why I got into the job in the first place – I wanted to put cricket straight and improve CSA as an organisation – and CSA courted me for a while. I went through the interview process and initially turned the job down, but in the absolute chaos of last December I decided I wanted to be part of the solution.

It took some daring for Smith to accept the post late last year, and South Africa’s most successful captain described CSA as being in “absolute chaos” at the time.

“There was zero trust between anyone,” he said.

“There’s still an element of internal agendas pulling in a lot of different directions and I would like to align those…  but I was captain for a long time so I have formulated ways of dealing with the stresses and public pressures of a high-profile job.”

While Smith’s decision to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the recent 3TCricket Solidarity Cup match went down like a flat beer with some supporters of the sport, the national director of cricket said he had done it to show he was serious about creating a South African cricket culture in which everyone could feel comfortable.

“The BLM movement provided the opportunity for everyone to have an open discussion before the Solidarity Cup, which is why we all decided to take a knee, to show solidarity to creating a better environment going forward,” he said.

“We’ve got to create a culture where everyone feels safe to talk. I was most surprised that players did not feel they had a voice in the past.

“As far as I was aware, there have always been channels, but obviously these players did not feel that way, so hopefully we can improve on that.”

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