As if every single supporter of our beloved Proteas team hasn’t had enough heartache after losing that semi-final to New Zealand.
The media frenzy over the team selection has opened a horrible can of worms that those who hold the game dear while find tough to digest in a hurry. With the revelations and allegations of interference in the team selection based on whatever reason one chooses does the face of cricket no good at all. Sadly, again the poor players are caught in the middle between a rock and a hard place. Also, the coach has now been placed in a very awkward situation.
Let’s just re-wind briefly. We all know Kyle Abbot bowled out of his boots against Sri Lanka but only played because Vernon Philander was injured. The crunch came when the team had to be selected for the semi-final. Who do you now pick if Vernon Philander is fully fit again? That is purely a cricket decision. Conditions, opposition and strategy form part of that decision-making and selectors are entrusted to make the call. They then stand or fall with that decision. Sometimes they will get it spot-on and other times in hindsight it will look like a complete disaster. That scenario played out as Philander left the field injured and didn’t have a great day with the ball. However, that is cricket and we love the game for that.
Now comes the real problem as I see it. An allegation of an sms being sent to coach Russell Domingo at some unearthly hour from the CEO of CSA to propose a selection change smells like some sort of interference by someone who has the right to not approve a team for whatever reason. It’s very obvious that if he tells you, “pick this bloke ahead of that bloke” and he is your boss and holds the power to ensure you will do it, you don’t have too many options other than to try and convince everyone that they need to accept it and move on.
I really feel for Russell Domingo. Here is a coach on the brink of doing great things and who has fought tooth and nail his entire coaching life to achieve the ultimate reward of winning a World Cup and at 1am in the morning he is getting sms’s to make team changes.
Another victim in the mess is poor Vernon Philander. It really isn’t his fault that he gets selected ahead of anyone even if he is carrying a slight injury. Of course he could say “guys I’m not fully fit” but who would not want to be part of the semi-final if you think you can get through the match. Remember, he is a wonderful bowler who has served our country well many, many times.
Of course the real sad story is our captain AB de Villiers. What a player and a real gentleman. Someone that our youth can look up to and aspire to be like. Despite his ability and form, he in all probability will not one day have a World Cup medal hanging in his house somewhere. This was the time he had to do it one feels, especially with the team he has had over the last two years.
The big question for me is where is our Convener of Selection in this mess? Surely as the bloke entrusted with the final say on the team selection, he should have immediately come out with some sort of a statement to clear up exactly what happened.
My take on this saga which encompasses transformation, quota’s, targets and whatever else is that the transparency of what is being done isn’t being dealt with correctly. Let us all be very honest, getting our team to be truly representative of the country is a goal that we all should be trying to achieve and in fact embrace. No-one wants to see any player disadvantaged through colour, creed or religion. There has been so much good done over the last many years by so many in keeping the process going and that is something we as South Africans should be proud of. I don’t know of one single cricketer who hasn’t in some way contributed to achieving the end goal. Some have spent time coaching in townships, all of us in the nineties contributed through a fee off our contract and some even today assist wherever possible to sponsor talent.
However, “Joe Public” who pays good money and takes his kids to grounds to watch, who wakes up and sits glued to the television in hope, who gets to the airport when the team comes home even if it loses, who buys the Proteas memorabilia and wears it proudly, that has kids with posters on the wall in the room and who feels gutted when the Proteas team lose, is the person we need to take along the road of believing that the process being undertaken is good for the game in South Africa. That can only be done by being absolutely honest in dealing with anything that remotely resembles something he may not understand. Right now, that has failed dismally and those charged with the responsibility need to be taken to task.
It’s obvious that there are going to be detractors on either side of the “Joe Public” I have described. People that still hold prejudices one way or the other. People who are hanging on to issues that don’t do the game any good at all. Being honest to them too is really all one can do.
The trick of course is to be able to marry transformation with winning. That is not an easy task. It probably is an almost impossible one really. And that is where we need to be really honest as a nation. We cannot have our cake and eat it. But, what we can do is ask that our teams do the best they can and that our administrators stay honest in what they are doing. Anything outside of that results in creating mistrust and dissention and cricket doesn’t need that right now or ever and neither do the poor players.