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Ken Borland

Second legacy of the old board set to cause CSA strife

Posted on June 06, 2022 by Ken

Hot on the heels of the new Cricket South Africa board protesting that they inherited the mess that was the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings, there is a second legacy of the old, disgraced board that may also cause them strife in the coming months.

I do have some sympathy for chairman Lawson Naidoo and his fellow directors when they ask with some frustration, in the wake of CSA’s embarrassing arbitration loss to Graeme Smith, “What were we supposed to do?”

The fact that SJN ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza chose only to make “tentative findings” on “untested evidence”, but was quite happy to make public claims of racism (surely the most damaging allegation against a White South African), meant CSA were almost damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

If they failed to further investigate the SJN allegations, then they would have been accused of ignoring the systemic racism that no doubt was part of our cricket in previous decades. But by acting on the claims against Smith, they left themselves open to criticisms of a witch-hunt and slander because the evidence was so flimsy.

Naidoo and fellow director Steven Budlender, the noted advocate, defended themselves in a Daily Maverick article this week, but what they did not mention was the way CSA’s legal representatives handled themselves in the arbitration, being criticised by the officials for “changing their tack” in the middle of the hearings and “trying to trap Smith”.

Little wonder costs were awarded against CSA.

Because the SJN was not properly set up to hear and test such inflammatory evidence in a better-controlled legal environment, the previous board certainly left Naidoo and Co with an explosive booby-trap.

The other decision of the previous board that is now causing some unhappiness in cricket circles is the automatic promotion/relegation that will apply at the end of next summer and see one of the top eight teams go down to the second division.

At the moment, one of Northern Cape, KZN Inland or South-Western Districts look set to be promoted. The Free State Knights, based in Bloemfontein, are bottom of the Division One relegation standings, with North-West (Potchefstroom) and the KZN Dolphins (Durban) tied second-from-bottom. Even teams like Western Province (Cape Town) and the Eastern Province Warriors (PE) have anxious times ahead as they are only lead the Knights by 10 points.

Do CSA really want one of those major centres to miss out as the likes of Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg or Oudtshoorn have a Division One team instead?

The problem with automatic promotion/relegation is that it is unlikely, barring a mass defection of players, that the team coming up will be better than the side going down, given the quality of cricket played in Division II.

There are many good reasons to ensure teams in the lower division can work their way up into the premier section, but the majority of fans do not want to see the Dolphins, Western Province or the Central Gauteng Lions playing in the second league. Imagine iconic stadiums like Newlands, the Wanderers or Kingsmead not hosting the best domestic players?

The only reason teams like KZN or the Lions, who would have been involved in the relegation battle before their surprise victory in the One-Day Cup right at the end of the season, would find themselves in danger of going down is because they provide most of the Proteas team.

There are many who feel automatic promotion/relegation is there to ensure the smaller unions, whose votes are often like the tail wagging the dog, share a place at the top table for at least one season before themselves being demoted.

I know CSA have a lot on their plate, but tweaking this system to ensure the Division II winners are only promoted if they beat the bottom side in Division I, is hopefully going to become a priority.

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