Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, has called on South Africa’s administrators to shift their focus away from the current crises and onto the national team as they prepare for a home series against England.
Speaking after his team, Paarl Rocks, secured a home final at the Mzansi Super League (MSL), two days after CSA CEO Thabang Moroe was suspended and less than 24 hours after it was all but confirmed that former captain Graeme Smith will take over as director of cricket, du Plessis asked for plans to be put in place speedily to ensure the team is ready for their next on-field challenge.
“Obviously a lot has happened but now it’s a new start,” du Plessis said. “There’s not much time before the English series so now it’s about putting our focus back on to the team, making sure that the Test team gets all the things that are required for us to be successful.
“It’s been a little bit on pause the last two or three weeks which is already too late, so we need to make sure in the next week things will start unfolding to make sure the Test team gets the most attention. The last two weeks there hasn’t been much attention on that so that is what we will try and drive over the next week.”
The most immediate concerns are appointment of a selection panel to pick the squad that will face England, who named their touring party on Saturday, and the naming of support staff to assist interim team director Enoch Nkwe, who looks set to stay in his role. South Africa will also name two invitation teams to play against England in warm-up games, which may inform their final selection, as well as keep an eye on a round of first-class matches that begins on December 19 and assess injuries. Opening batsmen Aiden Markram, who broke his wrist in India, is the biggest doubt but has begun training with the Rocks in a bid to be ready for the Boxing Day Test.
Very little attention has been paid to his, or anyone else’s readiness, as CSA attempted to put out fires on multiple fronts over the last two weeks, ranging from disputes with the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), the suspension of seven members of staff, the resignations of three independent board members and the loss of a major sponsor. After a special meeting of the board on Saturday, CSA resolved to repair its relationship with SACA and hold independent disciplinary proceedings for those staff who have been sanctioned.
However, CSA did not disband the board or remove president Chris Nenzani, something which remains a concern for several stakeholders including SACA, whose outgoing CEO Tony Irish was “appalled” at developments. Irish tweeted that the board and president had taken “no responsibility for cricket’s biggest crisis” and are “now clinging to power”.
Rather than get drawn into the matter, du Plessis said he just wants to see cricket take centre stage again. “Now it’s about moving forward. I am a firm believer that it’s time for us to look ahead from all this crap that’s been happening behind the scenes. It’s about making sure that the players are focused on the cricket side of things,” he said.
Du Plessis also offered to be a buffer between the players and administrators as long as it allowed plans for England to proceed swiftly. “The players have got absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening behind the scenes. It’s important to separate that from a player point of view and if it needs me to be dealing with some of these things, then that’s OK. It’s about getting focus on what’s really important now which is a Test series against England. As I said before, it’s already a little bit 99 [last-minute] and things haven’t happened as they should have bu now we can start getting things on the right track.”
As part of that effort, CSA also announced Dr Jacques Faul as interim CEO on Saturday. Du Plessis, who has worked under Faul during his first stint as acting CEO in 2012 and at the Titans franchise, believes he is the right man for the job. “Jacques is obviously a very experienced CEO, a doctor, so I am sure he is pretty clever,” du Plessis said. “It’s about experience; getting people in that can take this great game of ours on the right track again.”
And so, despite the many issues South African cricket faces, du Plessis is hopeful South African cricket can get back on track. “There’s too much negative stuff that’s happened over the last four or five weeks and our cricket is too strong to have so many issues all the time. We are too proud a cricketing nation to be talking about this stuff all the time. The attention needs to be on the cricket and making sure we will build ourselves as a team and ourselves as an organisation to be great again.”