The ECB remain confident that that the forthcoming Test tour of South Africa will go ahead as planned, despite another day of administrative chaos that culminated in the suspension of Cricket South Africa’s chief executive and the loss of the team’s title sponsor after a 30-year association.
England are set to announce their Test squad on Saturday, and are due to depart next week for a four-match series which begins with the first Test at Centurion on Boxing Day. Several potential members of England’s party – including James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow – are already in the country at a training camp in Potchefstroom.
However, the rest of the squad will be flying into a febrile atmosphere, amid an ongoing stand-off between Cricket South Africa and its players over image rights that could yet escalate into strike action – although not, according to SACA, the players’ association, during the England series itself.
An ECB spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo that the board was keeping a “watching brief” on developments in South Africa, but added that they were not concerned about the existing arrangements at this stage.
On Friday, Thabang Moroe, CSA’s CEO, was suspended due to allegations of misconduct, while Standard Bank, whose association with cricket in South Africa dates back to 1998, announced it would not be renewing its title sponsorship of the national team due to “long-standing problems which have damaged Standard Bank’s reputation”.
Cricket South Africa have yet to appoint a director of cricket, with Graeme Smith, the former captain and favourite for the role, withdrawing his interest last month due to a “lack of confidence” in the administration. Earlier this week, five journalists had their accreditation temporarily revoked because the board was unhappy with the light in which it was being portrayed.
It is an uncomfortable backdrop for South Africa as they begin a high-profile home summer, and attempt to arrest a run of five Test defeats in a row – most recently a 3-0 series loss in India in October. That tour was the first outing for the new team director, Enoch Nkwe, whose role was created after Ottis Gibson stood down as head coach following the team’s disappointing showing at this year’s World Cup.
With South Africa facing a period of transition on the field too, following the retirements from Test cricket of Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla, the issue of selection is another bone of contention for South Africa. Last week the board faced further criticism for refusing to reveal the names of the “technical team” that will name the squad for the England series.
In response, SACA has called for a “clear and transparent structure” to be installed around the team as soon as possible, involving “experienced, credible and reputable cricket people”.
“In the England series across three formats which starts in three weeks time, the Proteas will be facing one of the best teams in the world” said Tony Irish, SACA’s chief executive. “We know that the players will give 110% for South Africa on the field but it is critical that a proper professional structure is in place around the team. The way in which CSA has dealt with this to date, and the fact that nothing is in place, is totally unacceptable. It is ludicrous to expect players to be selected by unknown selectors.”
Industrial action, Irish added, should be seen as a “last resort”, and acknowledged the critical financial importance of the England tour to a cash-strapped board. CSA is expected to lose between 654 million (USD 45 million approx) and 1 billion (USD 69 million approx) in the next four-year cycle, a figure that may now rise with the loss of revenue from the Standard Bank deal.
“We also wish to reassure cricket fans, and other cricket stakeholders, that SACA will not embark on industrial action with the players during the upcoming England series,” said Irish. “We are very aware of the importance of this series to the Proteas and to England, to the many fans from both countries and to the media and commercial partners.”