Opinionista Paul Berkowitz 10 March 2012

Judge Nicholson throws book, kitchen sink at Gerald Majola

Judge Nicholson’s findings following the probe into Cricket South Africa’s finances were released on Friday afternoon. He pretty much voted CSA off the island. Let's rubberneck the accident scene that is our cricket administration.

Imagine, if you will, that you are the captain of a cricket Test team and you’re on a hiding to nothing. The opposition have posted a first innings score that’s bigger than the Bumper Omnibus of Graeme Smith Pie-Related Jokes. You’ve been forced to follow on. And you’re 20/2 in your second innings. And (I almost forgot this part) you’ve already used up one of your DRS review thingies.

The opposing bowling attack has been cloned from bits of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander whisked around in a mad scientist’s centrifuge. You know you’re in hell because Billy Bowden is one of the on-field umpires.

You are the one facing the next ball, which freezes you in the crease by dint of its sheer evil. It hits you on your back leg right on the shin. You can smell the sulphur burning through your flannel. You know you’ve been hit plumb.

What do you do? Do you ask for the final review knowing it’s a fool’s errand? Do you walk? Even Geoff Boycott’s granny can see through her bifocals that you’re toast. It’s a waste of an appeal but you have to go through the motions. In your mind’s eye you can still see Billy cracking the knuckles of his index finger.

Now imagine you’re Gerald Majola. It’s been obvious for a while that you’re guilty of contravening the Companies Act in your role as CEO of Cricket South Africa. There’s only so many board members you can alienate and smear when your plans unravel. The internal inquiry facilitated by your cronies had exonerated you and you’d kept your dodgy bonus. Eventually the minister of sport, bound by both his professional duties and the growing public outcry, has no choice but to appoint an independent probe into CSA’s finances.

When Judge Chris Nicholson, the man heading the probe, has finished processing the mountain of evidence against you and heard your flimsy defence he pretty much throws the book at you. He recommends that the whole messy business be referred to the NPA to determine just how many laws have been broken.

Last chance saloon, Gerald, and it looks like you’ve been comprehensively outgunned. Unless you have friends in high places – and who knows, there certainly are rumours. But the damage to CSA and the brand of South African cricket (not always the same thing) are immense. CSA managed to snag a cooking oil sponsor for the recent home series after long-standing partners ended their relationships. I suppose something was needed to grease the frying pan that CSA have been tossed from so unceremoniously.

Timing, as usual for CSA, has been impeccable. On Wednesday it was revealed that CSA had scheduled an international T20 with India at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on 30 March, a mere 48 hours after the jetlagged Proteas return from their New Zealand campaign. It also happened to be the scheduled final for the domestic T20 competition.

This was also pencilled in by the CSA for 30 March. The final has since been moved to 1 April to accommodate the exhibition match with India. Yes, indeed, April Fools’ Day. Let’s say it together one more time: You can’t make this stuff up, friends.

The CSA has spent the week trying to convince the judge and the general cricket-loving public that they’re good at making money from IPL and T20 deals. They’re not the hottest on sponsor retention, diary management or internal auditing. After all, you can’t do everything.

At the top levels of the sport it looks like transformation and growth in the sport is happening under the CSA’s watch. There is a strong flow of young talent in the domestic franchises. A seventh franchise, the Impi, has been added to the domestic T20 competition. They are completely bum, but more on that in a future instalment.

Of course, nobody is going to take the CSA’s books at face value right now. That is why I make this humble appeal to Minister Mbalula, His Royal Razzmatazz: Please, if you want the public as shareholders in the national sporting codes, can we have some more shareholder participation? The internal audit committees of CSA, SARFU and especially SAFA should include members of the public and retired professionals who haven’t been given the happy-ending-oily-rubdown by one of the aforementioned troika.

Cricket is not soccer, Mr Minister. By virtue of the economics of the sport, it requires more money and investment to develop raw talent, particularly raw batting talent. What is the actual breakdown of CSA’s budget for development of young talent? Let’s know, openly and regularly, just who is benefitting from the dividends of our publicly-held assets. DM

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