Cricket South Africa (CSA) have been damned by Vernon Philander, who has blamed the suits at least partly for his retirement last month, for the downward spiral in South Africa’s performances, and for forcing him to play in the 2015 World Cup semi-final despite his own doubts over his selection.
Philander made his comments in an interview with Rapport, an Afrikaans-language Sunday newspaper. But they are being published internationally for the first time on Wednesday – the same day CSA’s board and members council will meet with all eyes on what they are going to do to halt cricket’s slide into debt, mismanagement, and alarming governance practices. CSA’s shoddy performance is being reflected on the field, where the men’s national team have lost 13 of their 19 completed matches in all formats since the start of last year’s World Cup – including eight of their last nine Tests.
“As a player you get to the point where you’ve had enough,” Philander was quoted as saying. “CSA’s previous management started thinking only of themselves; the players were the last people they worried about. Too many things have gone wrong recently. I had to decide what is the best way forward for me. I’m already [almost] 35 with a good career behind me, but I would have considered playing for longer if it wasn’t for the chaos in our cricket administration.
“The last thing that should happen is that the players are influenced negatively. Luckily there is credibility in CSA again. Hopefully we see a turnaround in the administration and on the field. We must put our heads together and decide in what direction we’re going. Hopefully we can make the road ahead better for the younger guys.”
In December CSA suspended controversial chief executive Thabang Moroe and appointed the trusted Jacques Faul to succeed him in an acting capacity. In January Graeme Smith came aboard as acting director of cricket with Mark Boucher named head coach and Jacques Kallis and Charl Langeveldt as his batting and bowling consultants. But that didn’t make enough of a difference where it mattered: South Africa won the first Test against England at Centurion in December but lost the other three, and then blew a lead in the drawn ODI series. Were Smith, Boucher and Kallis the answer? “It depends on their management style, because as a player you approach the game very differently than as a coach. We’ll see how they adjust.”
Philander was inadvertently central to one of the most infamous episodes in South Africa’s history in March 2015, when CSA ordered the inclusion of another player of colour in the XI for the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Auckland Park. The side included only three such players; one fewer than then recommended by the transformation policy. Because of a hamstring injury Philander had played in only three of South Africa’s other seven games in the tournament. But he was press-ganged into action at the expense of Kyle Abbott – the team’s best bowler at the event in terms of average, economy rate and strike rate. Philander, clearly some way short of match fit, left the field after bowling eight ineffectual overs for 52. The game was won off the last ball when Grant Elliott launched Dale Steyn down the ground, and the toll exacted by the administrators’ damaging interference was immediately apparent as most of South Africa’s players collapsed to earth emotionally exhausted.