Cricket South Africa will advertise the positions of convener of selectors, national women’s coach and support staff, men’s under-19 coach and support staff, South Africa A coach and chief medical officer imminently – with current contracts coming to an end on April 30. All the incumbents will be able to apply to continue in their positions.
That means Linda Zondi, currently the independent selector but previously the selection convener, Hilton Moreeng and Salieg Nackerdien, women’s head and assistant coach respectively, Lawrence Mahatlane, the under-19 coach, and Dr Shuaib Manjra, the current chief medical officer, could all be replaced. The South Africa A job has been vacant since Russell Domingo left to take up the role with Bangladesh and had been filled by Ashwell Prince, the Cobras coach, and Malibongwe Maketa, the former national assistant coach, in interim capacities this summer with permanent appointment to be made in the next few months.
Similarly, acting director of cricket, Graeme Smith, is set to be confirmed in the role, whether or not he needs to take time off to commentate on the IPL. Smith was appointed in December on a short-term deal because of his prior commitment to the IPL and had indicated his desire to sign with CSA on his return. With the IPL start-date uncertain and no international cricket for South Africa until at least June, Smith is ready to continue in his current role and an announcement on his position is expected next week.
Zondi and Mahatlane confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that they intend to apply for the convener and under-19 roles respectively while, at the time of writing, Moreeng had not responded to requests for comment. Zondi was South Africa’s convener of selectors from June 2015 until June 2019, when CSA sought to restructure under Thabang Moroe. When Moroe was suspended in December last year, Zondi was reappointed as an independent selector. His role in bringing through the bulk of the current squad and identifying talent such as Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram stand him in good stead for the position in future. Mahatlane, on the other hand, has had a tough time with the under-19 side, who exited at the group stage of the World Cup, hosted in South Africa this year.
“It was always going to be the case that positions would be advertised in April when contracts came to an end,” Smith told the media during an online press engagement on Tuesday. “We’re busy drawing up the under-19 and women’s management and coach positions. It’s not stopping any of the people currently in those positions from putting their names into the hat, but those positions will all be advertised.”
Smith confirmed that South Africa’s Test captain will be discussed following the appointment of the selection convener and that the women’s game will require increased emphasis with preparations for the 2021 World Cup front and centre of CSA’s agenda. “That is going to be a huge focus going forward especially with the World Cup coming up.”
The women’s team reached the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last month and narrowly missed out in a place in the final in a rain-reduced affair in the knockouts. They also got to the semi-finals of the 2017 ODI World Cup and have been mapping out a seven-year plan since professionalisation in 2014, which is aimed to culminate with success at the 2021 World Cup. Moreeng is a key part of that plan and, given the timing of the tournament early next year, and the dearth of cricket expected between now and then, it is not unrealistic to imagine he will be retained, especially as the team qualified for the World Cup with a series to spare.
The women’s team were due to host Australia this month but the matches were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. They are also scheduled to travel to West Indies and England over the South African winter, but whether those tours go ahead will depend on how soon international travel resumes. Similarly, the men’s team’s tours to Sri Lanka (a white-ball visit scheduled for June) and West Indies (July-August for two Tests and five T20Is) are also hanging in the balance with final calls to be taken in the next two to three months.
Smith explained that CSA and the players would like at least six weeks to prepare for tours which means a decision on Sri Lanka will need to be made around the third week of April, and on West Indies by early June. “We need plus-minus six weeks to have our players fully ready for tours. Financially, with stuff like holding flights, around that six-week mark is the time away from the tour when decisions need to be made,” Smith said.
Apart from logistics, the six-week period is also necessary to have players match fit, something which is impossible at the moment. South Africa is five days into a 21-day nationwide lockdown which prohibits, amongst other things, outdoor exercise. Players have been given individual training programs to follow at home and Smith emphasised that they need to take charge of their own conditioning. “A lot of it is going to be their own responsibility to maintain those levels through the lockdown,” he said.
Meanwhile, South African cricket continues to prepare for a domestic season that will not start for at least another six months. As CSA table the fixtures for franchise and provincial matches, they also provided an assurance that the Mzansi Super League, the T20 tournament which has been played for the past two seasons, will go ahead, although it is not known whether it will be broadcast on the free-to-air provider SABC, as was the case previously, or if CSA have been able to secure a television deal. “We’re still in the final negotiations, but I can confirm that there will be MSL 2020. We’re working through the details and the final contracts. We cannot give too many details other than stating that a third edition of the MSL will take place,” Faul said.