JOHANNESBURG: Former ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said Monday he was “saddened” by what he called his “poor relationship” with India’s cricket board, a situation that led to the powerful BCCI even expressing its opposition to him leading South African cricket.
Despite India’s concerns, Lorgat was appointed Cricket South Africa’s new chief executive officer on Saturday, with CSA insisting its own issues took priority.
“We will take decisions guided by what the interests of CSA are,” CSA President Chris Nenzani said at a news conference on Monday to officially welcome Lorgat to the role.
Like Nenzani, Lorgat also dealt with a barrage of questions at Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg about his problems with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and conceded “I didn’t expect such a poor relationship to have emanated after I left the ICC.”
The former head of the International Cricket Council said he was still not sure what the BCCI’s problems with him were, but he wanted to smooth them over.
“I will do my level best to understand what the issues are with those who are not happy with whatever it is with myself,” Lorgat said. “If I need to sit across the table, go to India, whatever it takes, I have to say that Cricket South Africa comes first.
“If it means that I have wronged somebody and I need to apologize … I will do so. I will have no hesitation to do so.”
Nenzani confirmed that the BCCI did not want Lorgat appointed to lead CSA, as has been widely reported in South Africa and India over the last few months. India’s “concerns” over Lorgat were expressed in a meeting between BCCI and CSA officials as far back as February, Nenzani said, when Lorgat, South Africa’s former head selector, became a leading candidate to return to his home country as chief executive.
“We had an opportunity to talk to the Indian president, the president of the BCCI. They raised certain concerns about the possible appointment of Mr. Lorgat as our CEO,” Nenzani said of the February meeting. “We made it clear to them, we said we would not undermine your concerns, we would not ignore your concerns, but we will be in a position to look into this matter and see how best the interests of CSA are addressed.”
South Africa’s ultimate decision to go against India – cricket’s undoubted dominant force – may have been strengthened by a perceived shift in power at the BCCI as much as by its own pressing need for experienced leadership. Since the February meeting, BCCI President Narainswamy Srinivasan has agreed to temporarily step aside while his son-in-law is investigated for alleged involvement in Indian cricket’s spot-fixing scandal.
Nenzani dismissed that and Lorgat’s later appointment as a coincidence.
“There is no link between what we have done and what’s happening in India,” he said. “We are not unaware as to what is happening in India. However, our standpoint is very clear. They are going through a process and a period of challenges and our own point is for us to keep our distance. We cannot begin to get entangled in their issues.”
Lorgat, who led international cricket at the ICC for four years from 2008-12, takes charge of a South African cricket body that is also troubled after its last permanent CEO was sacked in an unauthorized bonus scandal that also had links to Indian cricket and stemmed from South Africa’s hosting of the 2009 IPL tournament.
One of Lorgat’s priorities would be to “build some confidence” in CSA, he said, with South African cricket’s off-field leadership recently not matching the on-field success of its top-ranked test team.
But his problems with India also need to be urgently dealt with, with that country the most powerful and influential in major cricketing decisions.
“You cannot argue the fact that India is an important player in world cricket,” Lorgat said. “I knew that before I got to the ICC, I know that better after I come from the ICC. And we must respect India and its issues.”