Graeme Smith: Inside agendas at CSA a ‘most cancers’ that’s not getting any higher | Game

  • CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith believes there are internal agendas at play within certain sections of the organisation’s senior leadership.
  • President Chris Nenzani confirms that media leaks at CSA have long been an issue.
  • Smith remains committed to his role and says he will not be impacted by the departure of acting CEO Jacques Faul.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) director of cricket (DOC) Graeme Smith on Saturday pointed to a “cancer” within the senior structures of the organisation, highlighting what he believes are “internal agendas” that have sought to discredit him and the organisation itself. 

Smith, who joined as DOC in December last year following the suspension of CEO Thabang Moroe, and during a tumultuous period for the organisation, has since signed a two-year deal in that role with the option to extend for a third. 

But recent events and media reports, Smith says, have contributed to the current climate, “raising question marks over whether you can achieve in this role and be successful in it”.

“I think it’s been a cancer from within the organisation for a while and it’s not getting any better,” he said when asked to expand on the internal agendas and false media leaks he believed were at play.

“You try and sit and work out who in senior positions in this organisation is doing this, and why? What is the end goal? Is it serving cricket? It’s quite clearly someone in a high-profile position, whether it is in the business part or the board part, because some of the stuff being leaked can only be from those parties within the organisation and that’s disappointing.

“It doesn’t help cricket, it doesn’t help us build relations, it doesn’t help us put our right foot forward.

“We’re an organisation that spends all our time talking about these other things instead of the game of cricket.

“It certainly does feel that there are people within these positions that have ulterior motives.”

When contacted by Sport24 on Saturday, CSA president Chris Nenzani said he was aware of Smith’s concerns and acknowledged that the issue of agendas and certain individuals leaking information to the media had been problematic for some time.

He said that internal action was being taken. 

“This has been a problem within the organisation for a period of time – around 18 months – and it has affected a lot of people,” he said. 

“I have previously raised my own unhappiness on this issue with the board.”

With the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement having sparked significant developments in South African cricket, where black coaches and players have united to voice their collective views on systemic racism that they believe has long existed in the game, the last few weeks have been an emotional period for cricket. 

On Sunday, a group of 40 former black players and coaches met with CSA to discuss these issues and the organisation has also launched its Cricket for Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) project, which it says “aims to eradicate any racism, discrimination or feelings of exclusion from cricket.”

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On Wednesday, CSA released a statement after that meeting saying that members of the group of 40 players had expressed disappointment at the fact that Smith himself was not present at the meeting. 

‘It doesn’t affect me at all’

Smith has also been the subject of media reports highlighting concerns over the process of his own appointment at CSA, while his decision to appoint Mark Boucher as full-time coach has also received criticism. 

Both of those issues have since been cleared up by Nenzani, who told Sport24 that the CSA board had instructed Smith not to attend Sunday’s meeting, while Nenzani also confirmed that both Smith and Boucher’s appointments had followed the correct process. 

There was also previously a document in circulation – its origins are still not known – claiming that Boucher was a shareholder in CSA’s 3TC product which saw the Solidarity Cup hosted at Centurion last month. 

That has since been proved inaccurate by CSA and its acting CEO Jacques Faul, who said the organisation would be exploring legal options in an effort to determine the source of that leaked document. 

Smith has also been on the receiving end of some heated reaction to former speedster Makhaya Ntini’s recent comments that, during his Proteas playing days, he often felt lonely and isolated in the team under Smith.

The uncertainty in South African cricket is amplified by the fact that Moroe’s disciplinary process is still not complete, nearly nine months later, while an AGM in September will present an opportunity for what is largely considered to be a problematic board to change shape. 

Faul, too, is expected to step away from his post on 15 September and, if the Moroe process is not wrapped up by then, CSA might have to appoint another acting CEO. 

Smith, though, says he is not impacted by Faul’s departure. 

“It doesn’t affect me at all,” he said.

“It doesn’t affect why I got involved, and that’s to put cricket straight and try improve CSA as an organisation. That’s why I got involved in December in the middle of all the chaos back then.

“My commitment is still there to want to move forward in South African cricket and to move forward with whoever the leadership is going to be post-Jacques and at board level.”

‘Good people’

Smith added that he would have no problem working with Moroe and says he is committed to taking forward the work of the SJC and transformation committee, but his issues presently are what he considers to be an unconstructive relationship with certain sectors of the organisation. 

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“Hopefully CSA will involve us in that process now,” he said of the plans for the SJC.

“We were meant to be in that first meeting and the board asked us to not be a part of it. Going forward, I would like the opportunity to engage and be part of the solution.”

Smith added that he had been moved by the amount of good work being done by “good people” at CSA, but he could not understand the motives of those who were driven by agendas that were not for the betterment of cricket. 

“Referring to some of the articles around appointments and my appointments and of the staff,  I think those are extremely unfair and it was good to see the president put that straight in an article this morning,” Smith said. 

“I feel that there is a slight agenda with some things that are being said.

“Internally, with these leaked documents and trying to create some stories out in the media, I do feel that there is a plan at play at times.

“It’s sad, because at the end the only thing that suffers is our game and the future of our game.

“The people within the organisation that have ulterior motives, hopefully that will come to the fore and they will be found out, but I have been as surprised by the number of good people within CSA that only want good for the game and are prepared to work for it.

“I feel that is sometimes overshadowed by the stuff that’s going on.”

‘I didn’t appoint myself’

Smith also opened up on the process of his DOC appointment.

“I was appointed after a really vigorous process, with mainly black African people in my interviews, and after a number of conversations with the president. I didn’t appoint myself. That was handled by CSA,” Smith said on Saturday.

“I made a number of appointments in December, not only Mark Boucher. I brought in permanent staff like the team manager Volvo (Masubelele), Justin Ontong, Charl Langeveldt, Enoch Nkwe and the medical staff.

“The appointment of Paul Harris was around Keshav Maharaj requesting to work with him for one series. Jacques Kallis hasn’t been on the payroll of CSA for many months. He worked on an interim basis and it is important to clarify that those appointments were not permanent.

“Some of these guys that have gripes were approached and were spoken to … I think a balanced approach to these things is always key.”

Smith acknowledged that, at times in recent weeks, he had thought about his future. 

“I do feel at the moment that there is an element pulling me in a lot of different directions. There are a lot of internal agendas at play and I would like to try and align some of this stuff going forward, particularly from a cricket perspective,” he said.

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“When times are tough, you do ask yourself a lot of questions. I can tell you that life was a lot simpler as a broadcaster.

“When I got involved in December, it was absolute chaos in South African cricket. There was zero trust with anyone within the organisation, but my value system was that I got involved with cricket at heart.

‘It’s feeling chaotic again’

“I feel I can add value to the game and be part of the solution working with CSA and the players in getting us to perform on the field again, in helping the organisation financially and to bring my relationships and thinking and share that with people. My objective remains the same; I am a cricket person and that’s why I got involved.

“I feel at times that gets messed with because of all the other stuff that is going on.”

Before taking on the DOC position, Smith had been comfortable in his role as a commentator and broadcaster, but his 11 years as Proteas captain – considered to be the best the country has ever produced – made him an attractive option for the Proteas and CSA.

“I don’t feel like I’m perfect in this job and that I’m going to get everything right, but my intentions are good… I know that,” he said. 

“If there are others who feel that there are better people for this position, then they must tell me. I am by no means hungry to stay in this position for the rest of my life. I’ve got other opportunities that I enjoy and want to be a part of, but my goal is to hopefully be a part of creating a better CSA.”

Smith added that he had spoken to Ntini – they commentated together at the Solidarity Cup – and that the relationship between the two was “normal.”

“I feel normal with Mackie,” said Smith.

“We had an open discussion; we shared, we listened and there are certainly no hard feelings at all. He shared some stuff with me and I shared stuff with him.

“And that’s what it’s about; being able to hear each other and communicate to find a way forward. I feel like myself and Mackie have certainly done that. There’s certainly no issues between us.” 

Smith, for now, remains committed to the cause.  

“It’s very easy to get caught in the noise, the chaos around you and the emotion and I keep having to revisit why I got involved,” he said. 

“When I joined in December it was chaotic and it’s feeling chaotic again.”

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