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Stabroek News

Who is really the big man in cricket?
published: Sunday | February 10, 2008

Tony Becca

THE PRESENT crisis in South Africa's cricket between the president of the board, Norman Arendse, and coach of the team, Mickey Arthur, following the selection of the team to tour Bangladesh has taken a new twist with charges and counter-charges flying left, right and centre.

With the team selected and only four non-whites included, Arendse, a non-white, has refused to approve it on the basis of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) policy of transformation. He has asked the selectors to make changes to bring the number of non-whites up to seven as is required by the policy.

Arthur, the coach and a selector who is white, refused and after saying that Arthur has been "disrespectful" and "abusive", that he has been "cocking a snoop at his employers' policy of transform-ation", Arendse filed a disciplinary charge against him.

After telling Arendse that he did not know where he got the idea from that there should be seven black players in the touring team and that he was "power-crazy and egotistical", Arthur, in turn, filed a counter-charge against Arendse.

Policy ignored

According to Arendse, CSA has a policy on the selection of non-whites in their squads and on their teams. The policy, which calls for seven non-whites in a squad of 15 or more players, has been ignored this time around. And, as Arendse sees it, "if a coach says 'there is no transformation policy among the selectors'; if he says, 'sorry, I'm not prepared to implement CSA's policies', then his position is untenable."

Not so, says Arthur: "I've taken him on about this team. The transformation policy that Arendse wants to be applied does not exist. He is out of bounds. I told him that he was not a selector and should keep his nose out of team selections."

That is very interesting, and it is very interesting for at least three reasons.

Reason number one: According to Makhenkesi Stofile, the sports minister who was speaking last November shortly after South Africa had won the rugby World Cup, the quota system was something of the past.

Reason number two: As president of CSA, Arendse should know, more than Arthur, what are the policies of CSA, and if Stofile meant that the quota system was out or that it would soon be out.

Transformation policy

Reason number three: If, according to Arthur, the transform-ation policy that Arendse wants to apply does not exist, how come the general council of CSA has backed it; has asked the selectors to follow its policy; has asked its chief executive officer, Gerald Majola, to investigate Arthur's challenge of Arendse - of his employers - and how come he, Arthur, is quoted, by Reuters, as saying, "as a coach and a selector, I share Norman's determination to push the transformation agenda. .."

If a transformation policy does not exist, how can Arthur share Arendse's determination to push it?

Maybe it is simply because he wants to serve two masters - because, as he went on to say, "at the same time, I want to be able to look every player in the eye and tell them this, 'I believe you're the best player for the position'."

Above supervision?

What is really interesting in all of this, however, is that Arthur - the hired coach, a selector because he is the coach, and not the chairman of the selection committee at that - told Arendse that he "is out of bounds" to ask about the selection of the team; that "he was not a selector"; and that he "should keep his nose out of team selections."

Over the years, for many, many years, selectors, most of them, have believed that they are the sacred cows of cricket. Maybe it is because the job is usually reserved for ex-players and most times for ex-great players why most of them, behave so.

Apart from the fact that ex-players, regardless of how great they may have been, do not necessarily have the skill to spot talent and all the other things that are necessary to perform at the highest level, they, like those on cricket committees who huff and puff and sometimes pick up their marbles and walk away everytime something they suggest is not accepted, must learn to accept that they are part of a unit.

Most importantly, they should remember that the president, along with his committee, was elected by those in cricket in his country to run the game in the country.

An he and his committee have brought them in as experts, or sometimes so-called experts, to help, they, the experts, are answerable to him and his committee.

It would be a funny world if the man who is in charge cannot discuss things with someone who, for want of a better word, he has employed.

And it would be anarchy if the selection committee, which was not elected by the whole body, which was not elected to run the game and to guide the development of the game, could simply ignore the president and his committee.

President responsible

The cricket team is the showpiece of the game and it would be ridiculous if the president, and his committee, had nothing whatsoever to do with it - either with players' development or with the selection of players.

That is why, in every cricket board that I know, the president has to approve the team selected by the selectors. For obvious reasons, but for the captain of the team, the president should not and must not interfere with the selection of the team - and definitely so, not for technical reasons.

The president, and his committee, is responsible for the game, however, and when it comes to policies - as is the case in South Africa - when it comes to things like behaviour and when it comes to the selection of the captain the president and his committee must have the right to discuss and then to object - even though, according to one like Arthur, he is not a selector.

Lest it be forgotten, the president is the one - he and his committee - who, most times, selects the selec-tion committee.

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