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Ken Borland



The ICC: Growing and promoting cricket and making all the wrong decisions 0

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Ken

 

On their own website, the International Cricket Council state their vision as custodians and administrators of the game.

They say it is to “lead the continued drive towards more competitive, entertaining and meaningful cricket for players and fans. We will grow the sport by creating more opportunities for more people and nations to enjoy it and increase the competitiveness of international cricket at all levels. We will promote cricket by delivering exciting and engaging global events, attracting new and diverse fans and building long-term successful commercial partnerships. And finally, we will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

It’s all good and well that that is their vision, but unfortunately the ICC have a notorious history of almost inevitably making the wrong decision when it comes to the good of cricket.

The citing and subsequent suspension of Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for the second Test against England, which started in Nottingham on Friday, is a case in point.

Yes, Rabada was a naughty boy for swearing on the field. Thank heavens the ICC are stamping down on such behaviour that clearly poses a major threat to the game. I look forward to the day when they have undercover agents patrolling the stands, banning spectators who swear. I am sure, too, that the ICC will be putting pressure on their beloved broadcast partners to ensure they do not show movies with any of that vile language on their channels. Standards are standards after all.

Rabada was not suspended for swearing per se, of course, but rather because the one demerit point he was given took him to the threshold of four points that brings with it a one-match ban. The majority of those four points came from an incident in January when he shoved Sri Lankan batsman Niroshan Dickwella.

It is important, of course, to ensure decent standards of player behaviour, but there are better remedies than removing a star player from a crucial game in a high-profile series. Cricket is ultimately the loser this week as those watching the Trent Bridge clash are denied the joy of watching a great fast bowler locking horns with some fine batsmen. Rabada versus the combative Ben Stokes is always compelling viewing, and a fast bowler with fire has always been one of the best sights in cricket.

Instead of devaluing their own product, which is in desperate need of proper marketing, why does the ICC not rather fine players for their misdemeanours? I know some people will say the cricketers earn so much they don’t care about paying thousands of Rands in fines, but my experience of contract negotiations and the general behaviour of players shows they care just as much about money as the rest of us do.

The ICC have far more important things to worry about than a swear word uttered in the heat of combat.

Justice has been swift in Rabada’s case, but when are the ICC going to put in place a proper structure and context for international cricket? Their incompetence in this regard is putting their premier product – Test cricket – at risk. They have put their heads together innumerable times to discuss this issue and yet they have still come up with nothing. It’s enough to make a puritan want to swear.

In England, at this time of year, the sun stays up right into what we (except for those living in Cape Town, which is part of Europe anyway) would consider night – at 8pm it is still quite bright enough to play cricket. But in the first Test at Lord’s, those in the paying seats and those watching in their lounges did not see the prescribed 90 overs of play on any of the four days of play.

I get a little tired of some of the obsession about over-rates, because, if it’s a gripping contest, nobody cares if a team is bowling 12 overs per hour or 14. But if the conditions allow it, then play should continue for as long as necessary to get the prescribed overs in.

What brought the game of cricket more into disrepute – Rabada’s outburst or the actions of the match officials in Durban in 2016 when a Test against New Zealand was abandoned in bright sunshine with both teams keen to play?

The ICC, in their ivory tower, are firmly in the corner of their officials even when they are ensuring there is no cricket.

SA rugby needs decency more than anything else 0

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Ken

 

In terms of rugby, the New Year is all about finding answers to the question “What is wrong with South African rugby?”, but two incidents in the last month show that, perhaps more than anything else, some of our players and administrators have to ditch their self-serving attitudes and get back to the old values of the game that were rooted in common decency and humility.

The recent actions of the Western Province Rugby Football Union and current Springbok player Johan Goosen suggest the problems are more about individuals being rotten to the core rather than structural issues.

Let’s start with Goosen and I’m not going to say anything more about his on-field performance than my feeling he has flattered to deceive, although the fact that he never had a start at flyhalf is a mitigating factor.

But his tawdry actions in trying to get out of a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, that he only signed a few months ago and that netted him €500 000 a year until 2020, indicate this is a man of scant integrity and someone who clearly does not put team ahead of self.

A couple of weeks ago Goosen announced his retirement from rugby at the age of just 24, following one of his more injury-free years and his return to international rugby, saying he was going to become commercial director of a Free State based agricultural company.

Of course no one is really going to believe that and his name has since appeared on a Cheetahs training squad list and it has since been said that Goosen is ultimately going to Gloucester, once Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad becomes the English club’s majority shareholder.

With flagrant disregard for any ethical considerations, Goosen has taken advantage of a loophole in French labour law which makes all fixed-term rugby contracts temporary. Hence a player can be released from his contract without penalty if he finds fulltime employment – ostensibly Goosen’s dubious “commercial director” job.

The actions of Western Province rugby are just as cynical and what little faith their loyal supporters had in their administrators must now have almost totally dissipated.

They had applied for liquidation of the business arm of WP Rugby and then, just a day after that was granted by the Cape High Court, the Western Province Rugby Football Union announced that the insolvent company had been bought by one of their other companies.

Having put Western Province rugby into financial strife, the likes of president Thelo Wakefield and CEO Paul Zacks are glibly trying to slip through a loophole in thoroughly dishonourable fashion to evade their creditors, most notably with sponsorship company Aerios.

And these are the calibre of administrators that have been put in charge of one of the most legendary brands in rugby?!

Goosen has surely played his last game in the Green and Gold because people of such deviousness really should not be representing our country. He should also not be allowed to play Super Rugby and the Springbok coach must ensure his players will make the nation proud, not embarrass us on an international stage; the good of the game must come before the avaricious accumulation of individual wealth.

Wakefield must also surely fall on his sword. This is not some village rugby team he is mishandling, but one of the proudest rugby legacies in the world, whose fans should be feeling deeply humiliated.

High time at Loftus as the Bulls rapidly evolve 0

Posted on October 14, 2015 by Ken

 

Just four months ago, the Blue Bulls Rugby Union was in a sorry state with Frans Ludeke about to be axed as coach, the SuperRugby side ending a miserable campaign with a humiliating loss at home to the Cheetahs, and the players, management and administrators all pulling in different directions.

The atmosphere at Loftus Versfeld was so bad and so stuck in its ways that I called them dinosaurs in this same column.

But since then, there has been rapid evolution and their fortunes have soared with new coach Nollis Marais taking them to a home semi-final in the Currie Cup, playing a fresh, invigorating brand of rugby that has brought the crowds back to Loftus Versfeld, and giving much of the young talent that was being unused and growing frustrated the chance to shine.

Marais has already received his reward in that he has been confirmed as the SuperRugby coach and he has been given a four-year contract, an incredible sign of faith from a Bulls board that has never been known for its willingness to take a chance.

But CEO Barend van Graan said the sight of families returning in droves to Loftus Versfeld made it an easy decision.

“We can see how the tide has turned the last few weeks and attendances have been double what they were compared to last year, nearly the same as for SuperRugby games. Not many applicants reached the standards we require and it was not a difficult decision, Nollis had the inside track because of what has happened in the Currie Cup.

“Our expectations are high, if not I’m sure we would have only given him a one or two-year contract. But we have a lot of confidence in Nollis and he now has the opportunity to build for the next four years. He’s already brought through a number of young, excellent players,” Van Graan said.

While Marais has thoroughly updated the Bulls’ style of play, credit must also go to Van Graan and his board for realising that they need to adapt as well. The CEO said the BBRU would need to adjust their strategies.

“There are decreasing White numbers in our area, the whole demographic of Pretoria is changing dramatically. There are eight PSL teams in Gauteng, plus one each in North-West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, so this is a soccer region. The average crowd for a PSL game is 5000.

“Twenty-eight percent of the Blue Bulls’ support comes from the Eastern Cape and 98% of that is Black, most of whom don’t have pay-TV at home. So we have to revise our strategy and penetrate new markets. In the last five years, we have seen a decline of more than 70% on the number of tickets sold at the ground. People just buy tickets on the internet now and they’re no longer buying season tickets,” Van Graan pointed out.

The Bulls have earned a reputation for being aggressive recruiters of junior players, but their showcase teams have also suffered due to a revolving door of players leaving or losing their contracts.

“Since 2011, we have lost 57 players, a lot of them to the Euro, Yen and British Pound. But things are cyclical in a team sport, you have to let guys go, but perhaps we released too many players, in hindsight. The last six or seven SA U21 captains have come from here, but our Currie Cup side will be even younger next year so we need to be smart in our recruiting. We need to fast-track talent, but only five percent of the schools in our region play rugby,” Van Graan said.

Marais has given the Bulls a new lease of life on the field and credit should also be given to Van Graan and the board for identifying the new direction the BBRU has to take. If they continue along this path, there’s no reason why the Bulls shouldn’t in time become the most powerful union in the country again.

 

 

Lorgat optimistic that Windies tour will not be disrupted 0

Posted on November 25, 2014 by Ken

Cricket South Africa counted the cost last year of their summer of Test cricket being disrupted, but CEO Haroon Lorgat is optimistic that the current troubles between the West Indies and their administrators will not lead to another international tour to these shores being severely curtailed or cancelled.

The West Indies team are currently on strike and at loggerheads with both their own players’ association (Wipa) and the board (WICB), having pulled out of their tour to India after just four ODIs. If the impasse is not resolved before December, then they may have to send a second-string outfit to South Africa or the tour might be cancelled.

But Lorgat is confident that the issues will be resolved and the best West Indian team will tour, particularly if they accept the offer of assistance from the Federation of International Cricketers Association (Fica), headed by South African Tony Irish.

“I’ve spoken to the West Indies board in the last 24 hours and they are reasonably confident that they will be able to keep their promise and tour here. I’m optimistic that they’ll be able to work through their issues.

“In two weeks’ time the RamSlam T20 Challenge starts here and I was told that the NOCs [No-Objection Certificates] would be granted to the West Indian players involved. There are some big players coming here, including captain Dwayne Bravo, and I’ll be able to talk to them then.

“Plus Tony Irish has offered his assistance, so there are many angles we can work from. The West Indian players are always keen to come to South Africa, so although it’s early days and there’s still lots of emotion, I’m quite confident that we’ll get things worked out,” Lorgat told The Citizen yesterday.

An important ace in CSA’s hands is that the tour to South Africa is the West Indies’ last before the World Cup and Lorgat said there is an eagerness amongst the Caribbean players to perform in that showpiece event.

“The players don’t want to miss out on the World Cup so I’m sure sanity will prevail. It could have been worse: it’s an explosive situation that has been simmering for a while and it could have happened while they were in South Africa!” Lorgat pointed out.

The current strike is the fourth to have affected West Indies cricket over the last decade or so and is centred on Wipa president Wavell Hinds signing a new collective bargaining agreement that results in a significant paycut for the players, as high as 70% for some.

The WICB are now holding the players to that signed contract. Wipa happens to have acted similarly a few years ago when the then-WICB chief executive mistakenly signed a deal giving the players $35 000 more per match-day.

Irish, who rose to the post of executive chairperson of Fica in June, told The Citizen that he had to offer his assistance because “the implications of this issue go far beyond West Indies cricket”.

 



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