South Africa: While uncertainty hangs over India’s tour to South Africa later this year, it has emerged that Cricket South Africa (CSA) might have underestimated the risk of appointing Haroon Lorgat as its chief executive despite BCCI’s strong reservations against him.
While the BCCI’s antipathy towards Lorgat is well known in cricket circles, Jacques Faul, the former acting CSA chief, revealed to ESPNcricinfo that N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, had categorically warned that the tour might be at risk and CSA would stand to lose financially if they went ahead with Lorgat’s appointment. Faul, who is now in charge of the Titans franchise, told ESPNcricinfo that Srinivasan had communicated as much to Willie Basson, CSA’s acting president at the time.
The conversation, according to Faul, took place during a Champions League T20 meeting in Malaysia in December 2012. Faul then approached Srinivasan himself and suggested that the BCCI could not tell CSA who to appoint as chief executive, but he was told that the BCCI wasn’t telling them who to appoint, but who not to appoint.
However, over the subsequent months, CSA assumed that the financial fallout of ignoring that warning would be “minimal”. During this period Lorgat had secured an endorsement letter from IS Bindra, the former BCCI president and known critic of the current setup. It is unclear whether CSA assumed that a change of guard in India was imminent, but conversations between this reporter and several of the CSA officials involved in the discussions revealed that the board went ahead with the appointment after being satisfied with Lorgat’s version of events.
Lorgat, a former ICC chief executive, had been CSA’s preferred candidate from the outset but it did not appoint him until it discussed the implication of the decision – which the BCCI indicated it would strongly object to – for cricket in the country.
The BCCI’s specific opposition to Lorgat has not been made public but Basson confirmed he heard that the board wanted charges of misconduct investigated against Lorgat during his time at the ICC (it is on record that Srinivasan raised this particular issue during an ICC board meeting). Basson had approached Lorgat about the issue and was satisfied with the response he got.
“It did come up at the ICC board meetings I went to and there were rumours, but it was not discussed because he was leaving the ICC,” Basson said. “I had discussions with him about the underlying issues. He denied that he had done anything wrong. He said whatever he had done as ICC chief executive was within accepted business practices and had the approval of the ICC president. I was comfortable with what I took away from my discussion with him.”
Lorgat applied for the CSA job after the board was restructured on February 2, confirming he had submitted his CV the next day. In March, a CSA delegation headed by its lead director Norman Arendse visited India where, again, the BCCI’s concerns about Lorgat were made known.
The following month, CSA’s recruitment agency asked Faul, who had already left the organisation to take up the job of Titans chief executive, to apply for the position. He declined. CSA said they had not compiled a shortlist at that time and in May issued a release saying the search for a chief executive was “running on schedule,” even though it was already a month late.
The delay was never explained but at a CSA board meeting held during that period, one member asked what the financial ramifications of appointing Lorgat would be. Another director on the board answered, “minimal”.
It has since emerged that CSA made a potentially colossal error of judgment. The board stands to lose up to R200 million if the tour is shortened, a likely development with the BCCI shrinking the available window. If it is cancelled, the losses CSA will incur could impact the game in South Africa for years to come.
CSA have refused to comment until after the BCCI’s annual general meeting on September 29, when it will be known whether Srinivasan is elected for another term as president. CSA has continued to function as usual, holding off-season conferences, ranging from a coaches seminar to a transformation indaba.
One administrator told ESPNcricinfo that these activities have a feel of normalcy to them until the formal discussions are adjourned. Then, in the corridors, there is deep concern among officials who fear India may not visit South Africa at all and the game will be financially crippled. “We are s**t scared,” the official said. “All of us.”
A solution to curb the BCCI’s power is difficult to find so all CSA can do for now is placate their former ally, but how to do that is unclear. It may mean a premature end to Lorgat’s tenure or, as some administrators have mentioned, a legal claim on the BCCI. However, because the FTP is not binding, CSA may have to consider turning to an authority such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although the ICC is not a signatory to it. So for now, CSA can only ponder the cost of Lorgat’s appointment.