It’s been a tumultuous year, to say the least, for South African cricket both on the playing field and in the boardroom and corridors of Cricket South Africa (CSA).
The South African cricket team failed to bring home any silverware from yet another World Cup and lost Test series’ to Sri Lanka and India.
At CSA, the wheels simply fell off, with multiple suspensions of at least eight staff members, including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabang Moroe following allegations of misconduct, bad corporate governance and financial irregularities at the governing body.
The Proteas started 2019 on a strong note, completing a clean sweep in the three match Test series against Pakistan, on home soil in early January.
South Africa also went on to win the five matches One Day International series 3-2 with a comprehensive seven wicket victory in the final match at Newlands.
Sri Lanka travelled to South Africa in February and surprised the South Africans with a historic 2-0 series win, winning the first Test in Durban by just one wicket.
But then, emphatically coasting to an eight wicket victory in the second Test at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth.
The Sri Lankans became only the third nation – after England and Australia – and the first Asian team to win a Test series in South Africa.
The Proteas limited overs side seemed to hit their straps, however, rallying to whitewash the visitors in the five match ODI’s series.
And they went on to notch up a 2-0 series win in the three match T20 series, which boded well for the upcoming World Cup.
But it was at the global showpiece in England from May to July which saw the Proteas wilt inexplicably yet again on the world stage.
They opened their campaign with a massive loss to the hosts at the Oval, losing by more than 100 runs.
And to the dismay of Proteas fans, it only got worse for the South Africans as the tournament progressed.
They lost to underdogs Bangladesh by 21 runs in their second match and followed that up a few days later by a six wicket loss to 2011 champions India.
The hapless Proteas recorded further defeats to New Zealand and Pakistan in group stage.
They did however reply with victories over minnows Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Australia but it was not enough for the South Africans to secure a place in the knock-out phase.
After five defeats and three wins in nine matches South Africa finished seventh out of the top 10 cricket playing nations.
Another dismal performance at a big ICC event sent panic through the corridors of CSA, and then CEO Thabang Moroe rushed into announcing a new football style structure for cricket in the country.
In August, Moroe fired former West Indies seamer and Proteas coach for two years Ottis Gibson and appointed long time administrator Corrie van Zyl the acting director of cricket.
Less than a week later with a Tour to India looming in less than a month, Highveld Lions coach Enoch Nkwe was named the interim Team Director of the Proteas.
And sadly for Nkwe and his charges, it was somewhat of a baptism of fire on Indian soil.
South Africa managed to salvage a one-all series draw in the three match T20 series, with Quinton de Kock leading the side to a commanding nine wicket win in the final match in Bengaluru in September.
The three match Test series, however, was dominated by the hosts as India doused the Protea fire with a crushing series whitewash.
The Indians won the first match by 203 runs, the second by an innings and 137 runs and the third, in Ranchi in October, by an innings and 202 runs.
It was their fifth Test defeat in a row and one of their worst performances in recent years.
This was just days after the team returned from India in late October when things started to really unravel for Cricket South Africa.
Then interim director Corrie van Zyl was suspended, alongside Chief Operating Officer (COO) Naasei Appiah and Commercial Manager Clive Eksteen.
The trio was charged with the dereliction of duty, regarding issues around players’ commercial rights for the 2018 Mzansi Super League – where the South African Cricketer’s Association (SACA) claimed that CSA owed them about R2.5 million.
During the second edition of the Mzansi Super League amid questions about the projected losses at CSA; a dispute with SACA over the planned restructure of the franchise system; the team selection for the England tour and the appointment of a permanent Director of Cricket, Moroe assumed dictator like status – revoking the accreditation of five cricket journalists covering the tournament.
Moroe and Communications Manager Thami Mthembu took it a step further defending their decision in the media because they didn’t like what the journalists were saying about the governing body.
Under fire from just about everyone, including the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), the players association SACA, former presidents of the governing body Norman Arendse and Ali Bacher, sponsors and fans, the CEO backtracked a day later. He apologised to all but the damage was already done.
Independent Director of the Board Professor Shirley Zinn resigned the following day, citing problems with CSA’s principles of corporate governance.
A second Independent director Iqbal Khan, who also acted as chairperson of the finance committee, stepped down a day after Zinn’s resignation, alleging serious misconduct in the organisation.
Three more CSA employees were subsequently suspended and Dawn Makhobo a third independent director also resigned that week – sparking widespread calls for Moroe and the board to also step down.
Another blow to the embattled governing body was that title sponsor of the men’s national team – Standard Bank – decided not to renew its sponsorship when it ends in April next year. The bank said the problems at CSA have damaged the bank’s reputation.
Just hours later, CEO Moroe was suspended with immediate effect – albeit a provisional suspension, with full pay – on allegations of misconduct – and pending an independent forensic audit.
After a special sitting of the board and its member’s council, the president of Cricket South Africa Chris Nenzani appointed Titan’s CEO Jaques Faul as the acting Chief Executive in Moroe’s absence, with former ICC boss and former Proteas wicketkeeper Dave Richardson as his advisor.
Within days of taking over at CSA, Faul confirmed their preferred candidate for the Director of Cricket post – former captain Graeme Smith and also appointed former wicket keeper and Titans coach Mark Boucher the coach of the Proteas until 2023.
Linda Zondi was retained as an independent selector.
It was a move that saw Proteas fans breathe a sigh of relief ahead of what was going to be a big home summer, with series against England from December to early February, followed by a visit by Australia.
The following week, the squad to take on England in the four match Test series was announced.
Six uncapped players were included in the group, based on their success in franchise cricket this season.
They gathered for a training camp later that week and the stability and mentorship provided by Boucher and his team, which included legendary Proteas top-order batsman Jacques Kallis and former seamer Charl Langeveldt in his backroom staff, was cited as just what the doctor ordered.
It certainly has been a forgettable year in the story of South African cricket both on and off the field.
South Africans, both fans and players alike however, have had to endure other scandals in the past.
Hansie Cronje’s match fixing and Gerald Majola’s IPL spring to mind, but the positive news is that CSA has seemingly turned the corner, with Jaques Faul at the helm.
And the Proteas’ players are no doubt looking to re-ignite that Protea fire and start writing a new chapter when they take on England in the first Test in Centurion starting on Boxing Day.
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