South African cricket has been thrown into crisis by a power struggle between coach Mickey Arthur, and Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse.
Problems surfaced with the delaying of the squad announcement for the tour to Bangladesh, which the players are scheduled to leave for on Wednesday. The touring squad was due to be announced on Tuesday, but this has been put back until the following Monday or Tuesday. Arendse said that the delay was due to fitness tests that were planned for Monday for Neil Mckenzie and Andre Nel. Subsequently it has come to light that the real reason for the delay is because of Arendse not accepting the make up of the squad – as there are too few black players that have been selected by the selection committee, of which Arthur is part of.
CSA guidelines say that there should be 7 black players in any squad. However these are said to be targets rather than actual quotas. After South Africa won the rugby World Cup, the sports minister, Makhenkesi Stofile, said that there should be no quotas in South African sport, players should be there on merit, more should be done for the infrastructure and development of black talent rather than a quota system, and that a winning team unites a country more than a losing one. CSA has always maintained that it sets targets for transformation rather that enforcing a quota system. What’s coming out of their presidents office suggests otherwise.
The focus of the problem is being reported as the non inclusion of Herchelle Gibbs and Monde Zondeki, and the inclusion of less than 7 black players. Gibbs, one of the most talented and natural batsman in world cricket over the last ten years, have been out of form in Test cricket for the last 2 or 3 years. With testing tours of India, England and Australia to follow the Bangladesh series, the selectors have looked to sure up the opening problem by selecting Neil Mckenzie as Smith’s opening partner. Although Mckenzie is not an opening batsman, he has the technique, experience, and know how to do the job. The issue of Zondeki is more complicated. Zondeki has taken 54 wickets in 10 matches this season, 2nd to Dillon du Preez 55, at an average of 20,16. His inclusion should be on merit as his form suggests. However the selectors seem to be loyal to a group of bowlers, hence Pollock finding himself playing in only 1 test in the last 3 series before his retirement. Morne Morkel will no doubt find himself in the team sooner rather than later. They may also want to play two spinners in Bangladesh and India, and so Johan Botha may find himself in the team along with Paul Harris. Should Nel not be fit Zondeki may get the call up. The actions of Arendse will only harm Zondeki. He would much rather know that he has the backing of everyone concerned, the selectors, coach, captain and players, rather then being a political selection.
The best 11 should take the field at all times. Gibbs, Amla, Prince, Ntini, Langeveld and Duminy have shown that merit gets rewarded and should be proof enough to Arendse not to force the issue. Justin Ontongs career suffered because of political interference and the same mistakes should not be repeated.
The infighting and filing of chargers and counter chargers by Arendse and Arthur are not good for any South African crickets, black or white. It seems that one of the two will have to go. CSA had better get their house in order quickly. Its better that this crisis happened at the beginning of the season and not while touring Australia.
The latest rumblings do however bring up an interesting question. With Arendse’s selection interference becoming evident, was it he, much to his denial, who in fact was the person who took Kallis and Hall off the actual squad selection for the T20 World Cup? A tournament that South Africa only lost one game in, an all important decider with India, a game that the experience and calmness of Kallis and Hall would have been needed.