Opinionista Antoinette Muller 9 February 2014

Fear and loathing in CSA town

Cricket South Africa buckled and voted for cricket’s new world order on Saturday. After so much posturing, it was a disappointing end result, but it wasn’t surprising. The whole way the votes played out spelled textbook business bartering.

In the animal kingdom, toads are renowned for puffing themselves up to deter predators, especially snakes. The toads do this to either get the predator to leave them alone or to prevent snakes from actually swallowing them. In those cases, the toad walks away unscathed and resumes business as usual once the snake has given up trying to eat it.

You get where this analogy is going. Cricket’s new world order has been voted into action and, after a lot of making themselves appear big, Cricket South Africa voted for the revamped position paper.

This came just a day after CSA evoked the spirit of Nelson Mandela to make it clear they would be doing nothing to compromise their integrity. Sri Lanka and Pakistan – the two boards perceived to be completely dysfunctional – were the only two boards who abstained.

The changes aren’t as brash as first suggested, but they are significant enough to mean there will be a major overhaul in the governance of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Big decisions will largely be at the feet of the ECB, CA and the BCCI, with Srinivasan taking over as chairman.

Although there will be some revenue benefit for some countries, the proposals should leave everyone sceptical at best. What has been most disappointing, though, is the manner in which CSA handled proceedings and ended up selling everyone down the river when initially, it was thought that they would show some backbone and stand up to the BCCI for once.

Just like the toad who protects itself, CSA were the board that puffed themselves up the most, with phrases like “unethical, fundamentally flawed” and so on. It was all very convincing on paper, but completely trusting a cricket board is akin to completely trusting a politician.

CSA denied reports that they were willing to bargain Haroon Lorgat for their vote, but never denied discussions. Although the future of Lorgat is yet to be determined, the discussions that were had certainly were fruitful. There are talks of reaching an agreement with the BCCI for a bilateral tour and, most importantly, South Africa will host the 2017 edition of the reinstated Champions Trophy. When the schedule for ICC events was announced, CSA said they had found it “distressing” that there were no major events in the country. With the Test Championship out of the window and the Champions Trophy back on the table, it was a great bargaining chip for CSA. There is also the small matter of the Indian Premier League’s venue for 2014.

With elections in India this year, there is a chance that either the dates need to be shifted or the venue needs to be shifted. Because elections require the most security, there will not be enough security to handle the IPL. South Africa have stepped up to help in a situation like this before, but when Haroon Lorgat took over, they fell off the radar. Now, the rumours are back that South Africa could very well be hosting this year’s edition of the IPL. Could that have been yet another condition in exchange for a vote?

The whole scenario has been a textbook case of bargaining. The initial draft proposal suggested the possibility of relegation for the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but once that was removed, their votes were changed. The initial proposal left South Africa out of the “Test match fund”, but once they were added, they were willing to enter into discussions. Every single person involved in the posturing, at least from the Big Three’s side, knew exactly what they were doing.

Did CSA know what they were doing, too? As things stood, they were the swing vote. CSA knew what they wanted out of the deal and knew that the more they puffed themselves up, the more the snake would struggle through the strangulation attempt. Without their vote, it is unlikely that Srinivasan would have become chairman. The rotation schedule did require somebody from the Asian bloc to take over for the new term, but it would have been somebody from Bangladesh, not Indian cricket’s powerful overload. Tit-for-tat in the game of bad governance has won this time, and while the toad might safely hop away for now, there’s no telling how long before it’s taken by surprise by a far more cunning predator.

CSA have a very bloody nose at the moment, not because they voted in favour of the paper, but because of the manner in which they did. It’s most likely that they knew exactly what kind of effect the vote and their approach would have on their credibility, but it’s a risk CSA were clearly willing to take simply because they did not have much of a choice. Although they will be finally okay in some aspects, their reliance on incoming tours, especially from the BCCI, impacts too many people. Those people include the team who works tirelessly on development in the country. It is, once again, a reminder that cricket boards need to find ways to be financially independent instead of relying on welfare cheques from those who have nothing but their own selfish interests at heart. DM

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