Sport

Cricket, the game of bullies

By Ken Borland 24 October 2013

Making a deal with the devil inevitably means losing your soul, and it seems Cricket South Africa's chickens have finally come home to roost in the form of a right royal shafting from the Board of Control for Cricket in India this week. By KEN BORLAND.

When CSA became a shareholder with the BCCI in the millions of dollars generated by T20 cricket back in 2008, it triggered a series of events mostly characterised by administrators jostling for position to get their snouts in the trough.

Former CEO, Gerald Majola, has paid the price for his greed and Gauteng cricket is only now emerging from the side-effects of hosting the IPL, but the CSA board remains mostly the same – a bunch of non-independent directors whose priorities are their own constituents and not the greater good of South African cricket, and of course ensuring a smooth supply of gravy down their own gullets.

And so CSA finds itself totally and utterly out-negotiated by the BCCI when their former friends decided to betray them, just because they had the temerity to appoint the best man available as their CEO, but one who happens to have crossed swords with Indian supremo Narayanaswami Srinivasan in his past work with the International Cricket Council.

Of course the BCCI owes South African cricket better, both ethically and legally, but with the ICC unable to take action because their members – most notably England, Australia, the West Indies and New Zealand – are desperately trying to show their allegiance to India, Srinivasan and his cronies will almost certainly get away with their bullying tactics and actions which are highly detrimental to the future health of the game as a whole.

David Becker, the ex-head of the ICC’s legal department, provided the perfect excuse for the BCCI to justify their actions with his ill-timed statement confirming what everyone suspected about the poor governance of the game’s governing body and how Srinivasan manipulates the board to get his way, regardless of what legally binding agreements are in place.

The BCCI has seized upon Becker’s statement as proof that Haroon Lorgat is the villain in this dispute and the ICC has moved with remarkable speed in confirming that both their former CEO and their former legal guru will be investigated. The corridors of power in the ICC have seldom produced so swift a response; perhaps it’s because those corridors are now dark alleyways which Srinivasan, the subject of criminal investigations in India, feels right at home in.

The CSA board has also teed up Lorgat to be the sacrificial scapegoat by agreeing to the investigation and also suspending their CEO from any involvement with the ICC or India’s truncated tour here in December. And in return for offering up their most senior employee, all they receive is the bare minimum in terms of the tour and the least BCCI could do to honour the Future Tours Programme.

The contrast between how the CSA board dragged their feet when it came to taking action against Majola, who had demonstrably been dishonest and harmed South African cricket, and the alacrity with which they have ditched Lorgat, against whom there is no evidence at all, is stark. And in return for abandoning their CEO, all they have received in return is peanuts, a tour that will still see CSA losing hundreds of millions of rand.

It is a gutless decision by CSA, falling between two stools, and they should be warned that the BCCI is only going to demand more from them in future, because that’s how bullies operate once they know you are weak.

CSA should either have stood 100% behind Lorgat, and held the BCCI to their legal obligations, if necessary going as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or they should have followed the recommendations of the risk assessment company they hired earlier this year and not appointed him at all.

And CSA would have had a good chance of winning their case. Becker is adamant that the FTP is legally binding and the most recent meeting of the ICC’s chief executives’ committee, in September, confirmed that the programme, featuring three Tests, seven ODIs and two T20s against India in South Africa was binding. ICC minutes show that Srinivasan himself agreed to the FTP in October 2011, as long as the ICC governance structure did not substantially change. Which it has not as the Woolf Report that recommended change has been successfully consigned to the scrap heap at the BCCI’s bidding.

Whether or not Becker has been consulting with CSA is not clear and the lawyer himself did not respond to requests for clarification of this from The Daily Maverick.

But his statement was an absolute disaster for Lorgat and CSA and he would have to be an extremely poor lawyer indeed to so drastically undermine his own client.

And if Lorgat were involved in the statement, why would he then offer an alleged inducement to a journalist for it not to be published?

The BCCI’s suggestion that the original schedule announced by CSA in July had been unilaterally decided, is nonsense. Three senior CSA officials were in India for the IPL final in May and meetings were held then about the tour. Draft schedules were e-mailed back and forth before the July schedule was agreed upon.

The reason for CSA not releasing those e-mails and proving the BCCI were up to mischief would seemingly be a desire to ensure that India did not lose face in the dispute.

For Lorgat to suddenly be involved in a statement, during a critical period of negotiations, lashing Srinivasan, however truthful it is, makes no sense, given how carefully he was treading before then.

But even if Lorgat is in the right and the CSA board finally man up and restore him to full duties, where does that leave us, the cricket lovers?

It’s a question that clearly neither the ICC nor CSA are interested in answering. The ICC has lost all credibility by allowing its own rules to be flouted and bending over backwards to do the will of one country, no matter how powerful that country may be.

The irony is that the sycophantic English, Australians, West Indians and Kiwis are setting themselves up for the same treatment.

The lily-livered CSA board has once again let down their most important stakeholder, which is the South African public, not the BCCI, no matter how much money they have thrown into the feeding trough.

But then the failure of CSA to fully implement the recommendations of the Nicholson Committee made such poor decision-making almost inevitable and the sense of disappointment in them remains strong, whatever the new face they are trying to portray. DM

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