Sunday, February 10, 2008

Arthur remains in selection panel

Mickey Arthur remains on South Africa's national selection panel based on a technicality...

Gerald Majola, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA), has confirmed Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, cannot be axed from the national selection panel as he is under a contract. The board's general council,which reaffirmed its stand on the transformation policy, had "removed" Arthur from the panel on Saturday. However, only the board's professional arm, headed by Majola, had the power to remove him.

"Mickey Arthur is contracted by Cricket South Africa (Pty) Ltd, and his contracted duties include being a national selector," Majola said in a statement. "Only the board of directors of CSA (Pty) Ltd can change this, and therefore the resolution taken at General Council's teleconference on Saturday to remove Mr Arthur from the selection process is unconstitutional.

"I have been in contact today (Sunday) with the convenor of selectors, Joubert Strydom, and have informed him that the same selection panel will finalise the team to tour Bangladesh. The panel comprises Joubert Strydom (convener), Mickey Arthur (national coach), Vincent Barnes (assistant national coach), Graeme Smith (captain), Mustapha Khan (selector) and Shafiek Abrahams (selector). The team will be announced tomorrow (Monday) after three players have undergone fitness tests, namely Hashim Amla, Andre Nel, and Neil McKenzie."

With any luck, Arthur and Norman Arendse, the CSA president with whom he has been having a running battle, will bump into each other in a deserted parking lot sometime soon. Maybe then, with no one watching and nothing more lethal than a pair of jabbing index fingers, we might get to the bottom of this week of Monty Python mayhem. Until then, let's try and make sense of what has happened.

On Tuesday Arendse rejected the squad selected for South Africa's imminent tour to Bangladesh. He did so, we believe, on the grounds that only four black players were included in the squad and not seven as called for in terms of CSA's plan for the ongoing racial transformation the game. It doesn't matter if we euphemise that bit of legislation as a policy or a target: what matters is the number. And that number is seven. Four isn't even close.

Where was Herschelle Gibbs in the wake of his spectacular century in the last one-day international against West Indies, Arendse wondered. And didn't Monde Zondeki deserve some recognition for the 54 wickets he took in 10 SuperSport Series matches this season? Both are black, which would leave us just one short of the required number.

Arthur countered with a similarly sharp perspective. The South Africans return home briefly from Bangladesh before returning to the subcontinent for what is sure to be a challenging series against India. Arthur wanted his best team on the field in Bangladesh to ensure they hit the ground running when they encountered the big brothers next door.

Arendse countered that, with a lengthy tour of England looming after the Indian venture, South Africa needed to find out whether players like Zondeki - and other bowlers - were up to international standard.

At this point, non-South African readers might wonder what all the fuss has been about. Even allowing for what in other countries would be the novelty of a racially based selection policy, this is the stuff of the average committee meeting, surely. Why all the acrimony?

The upshot was that Arendse laid disciplinary charges against Arthur, who duly fired back a salvo of charges of his own against the president. Except that Arendse, as an elected official, was not subject to the same set of rules and regulations as CSA employees like Arthur. So the coach's charges are unlikely to stick. Instead, Arthur is likely to find himself on the carpet on charges of bringing the game into disrepute in the next day or so, and he might well find himself out of a job shortly after that.