JOHANNESBURG – Graeme Smith believes there are senior administrators within Cricket South Africa who have ‘dishonourable agendas’ and until those individuals are flushed out the organisation and the sport will not be able to improve.
Speaking on a wide range of issues yesterday, Cricket SA’s Director of Cricket said there were “elements within the organisation,” who were pulling in different directions and “had ulterior motives,” that don’t include improving the sport.
“You see some of things being attributed to people, or stuff that is getting leaked, and it has to be from a person or party in a senior position and you wonder, ‘what is the agenda?’,” Smith remarked.
The Proteas’ most successful captain was appointed to the position of Director of Cricket amidst a chaotic few weeks for Cricket SA last December, which included the suspension of chief executive Thabang Moroe. The outcome of the forensic audit that followed Moroe’s suspension, has still not been finalised, a cloud Smith said was choking the sport. “Everywhere I go, that’s all I’m asked about, whether it’s players, the media, or just people in the street – they all want to know where these reports are. That uncertainty is not good,” said Smith.
He mentioned that a similarly chaotic environment which existed within Cricket South Africa when he was appointed in December, has returned, following a brief period of stability, that saw CSA signing BetWay as a sponsor (albeit at much less than the previous deal with Standard Bank).
That stability has been replaced lately by backbiting, with Smith one of the central figures. “Life was a lot easier when I was a broadcaster.I want to serve cricket and get the game moving forward again, but it’s not easy with so much noise. It is feeling chaotic again and you just ask yourself, what are certain people in the organisation trying to create. It is sad.”
Smith has also been caught up in the debate around racism in the sport in the wake of black ex-players outlining how they were marginalised when they played. In particular Smith said he’d been caught off guard by Makhaya Ntini’s assertion that he felt isolated within the South African team environment. “I was taken aback by the Makkie stuff,” said Smith. “When I played with him I certainly never felt he was a silent person. He was already one of the senior players in the side when I joined.”
“Culturally, as the only Black African player it must have been tough for him and perhaps an awareness of that was something that at the time I didn’t have.”
Smith pointed to a set of meetings in 2010 – which he described as a “powerful experience” – where players were allowed to share experiences from their backgrounds as being critical to an improved and more united environment within the team, but admits that even more needs to be done now as former players reveal how uncomfortable and isolated they felt.
“A number of things have been surprising that have come out. I think the most important thing going forward from a culture perspective is to create a better environment.”
“What surprised me the most is that there were players in the past that never felt they had a voice or could feel comfortable enough to communicate. Part of my role and that of my department’s role is we’re going to have a very big influence on how things move forward,” he added.
Cricket SA has through its newly created Social Justice and Nation building project attempted to address the past failure in terms of racial integration which led to so many heartbreaking stories being revealed in recent weeks. Smith said he was motivated to be part of those discussions. “Right now, this is a listening and engaging process and I am looking forward to further engagements. I feel we should all want to be part of the solution.”
*The Proteas mens team’s tours of West Indies and Sri Lanka have been indefinitely postponed Smith said. With the lack of clarity over international travel, Cricket SA can’t offer it’s counterparts in those countries the necessary assurances that the team can travel. Cricket SA is looking to get approval from the government to allow the women’s national team to tour England in September.