Sport

BCCI & CSA crisis: Up the creek, no visible paddle

By Ken Borland 23 September 2013

Never mind the short-term effects of India cutting their tour to South Africa later this year, the crisis between Cricket SA and the BCCI has the potential to end the Proteas' reign as one of the leading teams in world cricket. By KEN BORLAND.

According to the International Cricket Council’s Future Tours Programme, which is hardly worth the spreadsheet it is produced with, South Africa should be playing against India in three Tests, seven ODIs and two T20s this summer and CSA have released an official schedule which reflects that in a tour running from November 21 to January 19.

But in a battle that is increasingly pitting CSA’s new chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, against long-time Indian cricket powerbroker Narayanaswami Srinivasan, the Board of Control for Cricket in India have not only refused to verify that schedule but have actively undermined it by inviting the West Indies to visit them in November and then bringing their tour to New Zealand in January forward such that it overlaps with the end of their proposed South African visit.

The root of the problem would seem to be Srinivasan’s bitterness over perceived slights to Indian cricket by Lorgat when he was the CEO of the ICC.

It’s way more accurate to describe it as a childish powerplay by the odious Srinivasan, who is upset he didn’t get things all his own way when India hosted the 2011 World Cup and because Lorgat seemingly did not trust him with sensitive ICC tax documents.

But whatever the moral arguments – and it’s quite plainly not cricket for the BCCI to interfere in CSA’s appointment of a CEO – the truth of the matter is that Srinivasan and his cohorts have a gun held against the head of Lorgat and our administrators because of South African cricket’s financial dependence on them.

We will discover at the end of this month – after the BCCI’s AGM on September 29 – whether that gun is fired or not.

The other massively important event happening in India this month is the Champions League T20, the most lucrative tournament in world cricket and one which CSA holds a 20% financial stake in as one of the founder members along with India and Australia.

But according to just about anyone who is involved in South African cricket administration, either at national or franchise level, and is willing to talk, the Lorgat battle is spilling over into this competition as well.

No one from CSA has been invited to India to help run the tournament – as they have for all four of the other editions – and the South Africans are starting to get that decidedly unwanted feeling ever since they were asked to leave a CLT20 meeting earlier this year while financial stakes in the event were discussed.

It seems the BCCI is making overtures to the West Indies, with England also trying to get into the picture, with a view to replacing South Africa as a CLT20 stakeholder. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the West Indies will be touring India at short notice in November.

Added to the massive loss of income from a curtailed or cancelled Indian tour, South Africa losing their stake in the CLT20 would be a catastrophic blow. At the moment, CSA earns R48 million a year for the next two years as their dividend from the competition, but that figure is expected to increase to R114 million once the new CLT20 television deal kicks in. Plus there’s the $4 million for the franchises that comes with automatic qualification, the $500 000 participation fee …

One franchise CEO says the potential financial loss from the current failure of CSA and the BCCI to see eye-to-eye could run to as much as R200 million.

How is an organisation which announced revenues of just R430 million compared to expenses of R517.7 million last year going to cope with a loss as huge as that?

“This is going to piss on the bonus scandal [R4.7 million] in terms of money. We’re dead. We’re looking at a minimum of R200 million lost, which will stop development and transformation initiatives and the grants given to franchises will also be cut.

“Our franchise has already had retrenchments after we suffered a R3 million loss, but I told our financial planner the other day that we’re going to have to budget for a R30 million loss. We’ll have to cut programs as will CSA,” the CEO told The Daily Maverick.

From being a top-class team boasting an array of superstars like Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Vernon Philander and Graeme Smith, South Africa could find themselves as a beggar in international cricket terms.

“We don’t want to be bullied by the BCCI, but this will destroy our cricket. We’re going to end up like the West Indies a decade ago. Next year’s annual awards banquet might have to be a bring-and-braai, while the golf day will be on a mashie course,” a leading administrator said, only half-joking.

In the desperate search for a solution to the impasse there is already a murmuring amongst the franchises that Lorgat should make a tough decision and step down, making a sacrifice of himself in order to save South African cricket.

It would be most unfair on Lorgat if it does come down to that, because he was undoubtedly the best candidate for CEO and the general feeling when he was appointed was that it was good to stand up to the BCCI.

That, of course, was when Srinivasan looked up the creek without a paddle in the wake of the IPL betting scandal, but the mega-rich businessman is now the favourite to win the presidency at their AGM onSeptember 29.

But before everyone feels sorry for CSA, some of this mess is of their own making. Their governance structures have been up the pole for some time and even their new board is full of old backers of Gerald Majola and other new emerging cabals.

A risk analysis was apparently done by an independent company for CSA and they recommended that Lorgat should not be appointed i.e. the risk was too great.

But, as one insider said, “CSA made an error, a little R200 million error, because they didn’t quantify the risk properly. They calculated wrong and thought they’d just deal with the Indians like before.”

The grievous mistake can be traced back to the election of the CSA directors on February 2, when the Nicholson recommendations stressing the importance of more independent directors was thrown out. Instead, only five independent directors were appointed to the 12-man board and with one of them being Norman Arendse, who was controversially allowed to stand in the first place given his heavy involvement in Western Cape cricket, the independents are in effect outvoted 8-4.

Much to the horror of the independent directors, the risk analysis was ignored by CSA and the current fiasco was the result.

Those giants of corporate South Africa must also be aghast at how something as financially crucial as the CLT20 is run. There was apparently some fighting talk from the likes of Arendse about suing the BCCI but the fact that no contract was actually signed makes this practically impossible.

The 2009 IPL held in South Africa was conducted along similarly vague lines and the lack of signed contracts was one of the reasons ex-CEO Gerald Majola was able to get away with his skulduggery for so long.

South African cricket was held in high esteem in the corridors of power until the Majola scandal led to a succession of different faces representing them at ICC meetings and the BCCI, always protective of their position as the most powerful force in cricket off the field, even if the Proteas are better on it, perhaps realised that their so-called “friends” were vulnerable.

Those countries who stand to benefit from the breakdown of our relationship with India – the West Indies, England, Australia – should be warned that tomorrow it could be them.

In the meantime, the administrators of the game in this country need to decide how best to deal with a bully. Should CSA cave in and Lorgat stand down?

Or should CSA stand by the appointment of Lorgat on principle and subject the game to financial ruin?

Perhaps this is the perfect occasion for the government to actually get involved and deal with the Indians directly, because the efforts at diplomacy that CSA have tried so far certainly aren’t working. DM

Photo: LEFT: Indian cricket board (BCCI) President N. Srinivasan speaks to the media during a news conference in Kolkata May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri. RIGHT: Then International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat speaks during a news conference at National stadium in Karachi August 12, 2008. REUTERS/Athar Hussain   (PAKISTAN)

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