Cricket South Africa’s appointment of Haroon Lorgat as their new chief executive is a welcome uprising against the bully-boy tactics and undue influence of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The 53-year-old Lorgat, the former chief executive of the International Cricket Council, was announced as the new CEO of CSA on the weekend and is the first permanent appointment in the key role since the disgraced Gerald Majola was suspended (and later sacked) in March 2012 in the wake of the bonus scandal that followed South Africa’s hosting of the Indian Premier League in 2009.
But despite clearly being the best candidate for the job – Lorgat was a highly-respected former player, he was convenor of the national selection panel, he runs his own successful chartered accountancy business, he has cricket administration experience at the highest level – and although various members of the CSA board have been seeking his return for the last couple of years, Lorgat was only appointed on the weekend, three-and-a-half months later than the original April deadline for a new CEO.
That’s because the BCCI made it clear in February that they did not want Lorgat heading up South African cricket. He and the then-president of the BCCI, Narayanaswami Srinivasan, have history of the wrong sort.
The reasons for Srinivasan’s antagonism range from Lorgat’s backing of the Decision Review System, contrary to India’s wishes; his decision to move the 2011 World Cup match between India and England away from Eden Gardens in Kolkata because the stadium wasn’t ready; his refusal to entertain Srinivasan’s push for the ICC to move their headquarters from Dubai to Mumbai; and Lorgat’s backing of the findings of the Lord Woolf Commission, which warned about the unhealthy influence India had on the ICC.
The BCCI’s bully-boy tactics would impress the average corrupt South African cop and any country which has voted against their viewpoint at ICC meetings has suffered the fall-out – losing out on lucrative tours by the Indian team, being denied a place in the Champions League T20 or having their players banned from the IPL.
It was the unseemly wealth of the IPL that eventually caused the BCCI to be exposed as a den of iniquity from within: Srinivasan, who also happens to own the Chennai Super Kings, stood aside as president in June when he could no longer plead ignorance of the corruption and match-fixing within the IPL.
Because the BCCI generate by far the most revenue in global cricket, they have their hands in every pie and even something as noble as the ICC Cricket Committee has been commandeered to suit their vision of a DRS-less world.
The Daily Maverick reported as far back as February that although Lorgat was the favourite to be become permanent CEO, this was unlikely because the BCCI were opposed to his appointment.
But the sidelining of Srinivasan has enabled Cricket South Africa to grow some balls and appoint the best candidate for the position, even though president Chris Nenzani denied on Monday that events in India had had any influence on the process.
That after CSA missed promised deadlines for the appointment in both early April and June.
“When we went to India in February, we spoke to the president of the BCCI [Srinivasan] and he expressed certain concerns about Haroon’s possible appointment. We made clear to him that we would not ignore his concerns, but we would have to act in the best interests of cricket in South Africa.
“There’s no link between what has happened in India and Haroon’s appointment now. They are going through a period of challenges in India, but we can’t afford to get entangled in that and Haroon’s appointment was done in the best way for CSA,” Nenzani said.
Louis von Zeuner, one of the new independent directors on the CSA board and a former deputy CEO of Absa, made it clear that he would not allow outside influences to meddle with what’s best for South African cricket on his watch.
“We take decisions in the interests of South African cricket and we don’t allow influences that don’t follow sound governance,” Von Zeuner said. “There are several stakeholders in South African cricket and we listen to all opinions and then take the opinion that is right for the country.”
Lorgat ran the ICC between 2008 and 2012 with a steely focus on what was best for the game in general and, with the importance of the BCCI in mind, he said on Monday that he would sit down with his Indian detractors and try to find common ground.
“It’s probably right that I don’t speak too much about it, but I was particularly saddened by the inferences that came from India. I never expected to end with such a poor relationship with them. But I will do my level best to understand their concerns and do whatever it takes to mend things. If I need to apologise, I will do so with no hesitation.
“There’s no doubt India is a major player and we must respect India. We don’t want to be out-of-favour with them, but I did what I thought was best for cricket,” Lorgat said.
The incoming CEO, who will take office on August 1 and has signed a three-year contract, also said he was happy with the new composition of the CSA board, saying a change in structure as recommended by the Nicholson Commission was a prerequisite for him to accept the post.
“Many people cajoled me to get involved in South African cricket again but one aspect I wanted was for there to be a new board with a sufficient independent component. I offered my availability once that new board was in place in early February.
“The new board is operating well, from what I’ve seen. We had a 90-minute session on the weekend and I saw the manner in which they operate with contributions from both the independent and non-independent side. I’m a fan of independent involvement because they don’t serve vested interests and I saw that. I’m confident this board will function as a very good corporate board.
“They are very mindful of good corporate governance since being restructured in line with the recommendations of the Nicholson Commission. We must all be conscious of it, but I’m not too concerned with governance because the people on the board will ensure that. I come from that background, it’s second nature for me, I trained in it and it’s how we did things at the ICC,” the chartered accountant said.