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Sunday , January 31 , 2010
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Identify and address the issue: Ali Bacher
- ‘Home advantage makes India favourites’

Calcutta: It has been a tumultuous week for cricket in South Africa — coach Mickey Arthur quit and Cricket South Africa (CSA) sacked the selection committee, headed by no less than Mike Procter.

On Saturday, The Telegraph spoke to Dr Ali Bacher, former captain and ex-managing director of the Board, for his views on the developments which occurred just days before the team’s departure for India.

Despite being on vacation in Cape Town, the Johannesburg-based Dr Bacher (chairman of two companies and an NGO) didn’t think twice about taking around 25 minutes off for the interview over the phone.

The following are excerpts

Q Well, what’s your reaction?

A The underlying issue, to my mind, is that after (Makhaya) Ntini we don’t have a Black African who’ll be able to regularly play for South Africa... I don’t wish to point fingers at anybody, but the reality is that there’s no one who can come in on merit... I don’t know the reason for that, though. Ntini has been around from 1998 and he’d calm everybody (on the sensitive issue of a representative team).

But should Mickey have quit as the coach?

I haven’t spoken to him and I haven’t picked up the phone and talked to anybody in CSA either... I’m not sure whether he resigned (or was made to put in his papers)... He has gone on record to say there was a fundamental difference between him and CSA... The impression I get is that the door was open for him to leave.

So, was that fundamental difference over Ntini’s ‘successor’, so to say?

(After a pause) I’m not privy to what really went on behind closed doors, but that’s what I understand.

What did you make of Mickey as the coach?

He was pretty good... We did particularly well in Tests, but stumbled in limited overs cricket... But, then, what was new in that? Having gone through many heartbreaks, I don’t need to be told about our stumbling in ODIs... Too much is made of the coaches... Where I’m concerned, the captain is the boss and the coach is only there to assist... Don’t tell me that a cricket coach is on a par with a (Sir Alex) Ferguson... From what I recall, England came to South Africa with 15 support staff... Why so many? What’s the logic? Beats me...

In this age and time, should there still be a quota system?

One shouldn’t go backwards... At this stage, the leadership in our cricket must acknowledge that, after Ntini, no Black African cricketer has been produced — certainly not somebody who can regularly play for South Africa on merit... After that, the leadership must go back to the drawing board, identify the reason for such a situation and quickly address it... I’d say honesty is needed... We’re culturally very diverse and, for cricket to be seen as a national sport, a team reflecting that diversity has to be fielded. The players should, of course, come through on merit.

Most pundits feel that the 32-year-old Ntini (390 wickets from 101 Tests, 266 in 173 ODIs) should now retire from international cricket...

It’s going to be his decision... Let him alone make it... I’d like to see CSA utilising his services.


By appointing him as the ambassador for youth cricket... He could go to the Black areas and motivate kids there... He could even motivate kids coming from among the Whites... His has been a remarkable story, somebody who made it big, coming from nowhere... He remains such a popular sportsman... His career has been driven by determination, dedication and guts... Indeed, CSA must use him.

Do you approve of the CEO, Gerald Majola, also wearing the hat of the convenor of selectors?

I don’t wish to comment.

Okay... To what extent can a coach be held accountable for his team’s failures?

I’ve already said that the coaches are getting too much importance... Call me from the old school, if you like...

Apparently, there have been calls for captain Graeme Smith’s head, too. Your take?

That’s absurd... Tactically, over the years, he’s improved... Remember, he’d only been 22 when he got the captaincy (after the 2003 World Cup)... He likes leading from the front and has a Test average of over 50, which is exceptional for an opener... He’s positive and very strong mentally, quite like an Australian... Besides, he’s very passionate about playing for South Africa. It would be ludicrous to remove him.

You earned kudos as an administrator. How would you have handled this crisis?

(Laughs) That’s not a fair question..

It is...

Well, I’d identify the problem and take steps to settle the issue.

Would the turmoil impact on South Africa’s performances in India?

Don’t think so... We’ve got some very experienced and tough players... Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers... They know how to get on with the job.

How do you see the two-Test series, in particular, unfolding?

Look, it’s not easy to play in India... It’s probably the toughest territory for a non-subcontinental team... The crowds are massive and the fans are so passionate... It’s almost like entering an enemy den... Ask Steve Waugh... Despite an unbelievable team, he and his men fell short (in 2001)... They say fans in Brazil are so passionate about soccer... Somebody should ask them to look at cricket fans in India... They’ll then know what real passion is.

Who would start the Test series as favourites?

Because of the home advantage, India.

Even without Rahul Dravid?

I think so, yes.

Lastly, you aren’t a huge one for rankings...

Rankings are meaningless... In ODIs, the one trophy which matters is the World Cup, not who is ranked where... It’s time a World Championship of Test Cricket was put in place... Fans, sponsors, the players themselves... All would like a competition with a climax, an ending where one captain holds aloft a trophy. Rankings, to me, are of no use.

Makhaya Ntini


The underlying issue, to my mind, is that after (Makhaya) Ntini we don’t have a Black African who’ll be able to regularly play for South Africa...

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