Summary Report: 27/01/2017
Compiled by Panel Members:
Independent research consultant:
1. Overview and objectives
2. Process and methodology
5. Summary and the way forward
I. Overview and Objectives
In August 2012, the Proteas made history by becoming the first team to be ranked number one in all three formats of the game and managed to retain this position for some time.
In the 12 months preceding April 2016, however, the performance of the Proteas declined. They failed to progress beyond the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015 and they suffered significant losses in the test arena to India away and England at home. Finally, they failed to go past the group stages at the ICC World Cup T20 in March, 2016.
This prompted a response from the Board of Cricket South Africa (CSA) encapsulated in this press release on April 9, 2016:
“Our recent performances resulting in early exits for all our national teams at the ICC World T20 and the ICC U/19 CWC events is clearly not acceptable. This calls for us to conduct a clinical review into the national setup and performances of the various teams,” added Mr Lorgat.
Consequently, a panel was established to conduct a review of the Proteas men’s team and, where possible, link this to the High Performance (HP) program to:
• Determine the reasons why our national team repeatedly fails to meet expectations at major ICC events;
• Specifically look and understand the causes of the Proteas recent performance decline in Test cricket;
• Consider team dynamics, team culture, mental resilience and capacity;
• Recommend changes needed to deliver sustained success.
It must be noted that the panel focused in particular on the men’s team and set-up but the recommendations are applicable to all Protea teams.
The state of cricket in South Africa
Whilst the objective of the report was to focus on recommendations about what needs to change to improve the overall performance of the Proteas, there were some very positive comments about cricket in general which are worth noting. They were as follows:
• Frequent references to cricket as being the best run sporting code in the country
• Financial and fiscal discipline and rigour
• The makeup of the CSA Board, in particular, the inclusion of Independent Directors
• Commitment to, and progress towards, transformation
• Introduction of clear transformation targets that are measured over a long period and not a single match
• Playing for the Proteas remains the ultimate objective for the majority of players
Finally, the passion, candour and honesty of the respondents as well as their enthusiasm about the concept of the development of the ultimate High Performance team was remarkable. It was obvious that there is a very deep rooted desire within and around the South African cricketing fraternity to become, and remain, the dominant force in world cricket.
II. Process and Methodology
The approach adopted by the panel included three key components as follows:
i. Literature review
A broad range of books, internal documents, reports, surveys and press articles were consulted. Particular reference was made to:
• Cricket Australia. 2011. Argus Report
• Kerr, J. 2013. Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership. Constable and Robinson Ltd. London.
ii. Personal in-depth interviews
Face to face interviews were conducted by various members of the panel with a wide variety of individuals associated with cricket in South Africa. The intention was to gain a broad and deep perspective on the state of the game and to ensure that the report enjoys credibility and substance.
A total of 45 in-depth interviews were conducted with a broad range of people involved in cricket in South Africa. The report is therefore representative of groups and individuals with different perspectives on, and interests in, the game of cricket in South Africa. The intention of including such a broad group was to ensure that ultimately, the report reflects the breadth and depth of different views on the sport. Interviews were conducted with the following categories of stakeholders:
Current contracted CSA players
Current Protea coaches, management and support staff
South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA)
CSA staff members and executives
Franchise / Affiliate union structure members
Current and past selection panel members
CSA Board members
Consultants who have worked with the team and on other elements in SA cricket
Ex-international cricket captain (non-SA)
Focus areas for the interviews included the following:
- Team performance in general
- High performance system and organisational structure
- Player performance
- Leadership and leadership development strategies
- Skills and skill development
- Personal player plans for development and performance
- Succession planning
- Coaching structure, roles, and effectiveness
- Team culture
- Accountability and authority
- Country vs club
- Squad management and player welfare
- Planning for ICC events
- Impact of competitions such as the IPL, including scheduling
- Review processes in place
The original intention was to interview at least 100 respondents. However, given the rigorous interviewing approach and the fact that the same themes and sentiments came through consistently throughout the interviews, the panel decided to reduce the list.
iii. Consultative workshops including the Advisory Committee
The first workshop included all members of the Panel and Advisory Committee. The purpose was to scope the approach and to agree on the topics to be covered in the interviews as well as the individuals to be interviewed. The second workshop included all members of the Panel and the Advisory Committee as well as the research consultant and the General Manager of Cricket who presented his proposed High Performance plan. Findings and recommendations were discussed and key themes and recommendations were debated and agreed.
The advisory committee included Graeme Smith, Gary Kirsten, Tony Irish, and Francois Hugo. It should be noted that Ashwell Prince was also invited to join the advisory committee but could not participate in the process due to other commitments. The intention behind the establishment of the advisory committee was to give the panel members the benefit of testing their findings and recommendations against the views of individuals who have been substantially involved in the game at the very highest level (both as players and non-players) and who have a very clear understanding of the nature of international cricket and high level cricketers.
Based on the interviews, ten broad themes emerged as follows:
ii. Trust, honesty and communication
iii. Performance objective
vi. Captaincy and leadership
viii. High performance and development pipeline
x. International cricket environment
Each of these is dealt with in detail in the sections that follow.
This was one of the strongest themes during the interviews and was noted by virtually all respondents. It was noted that culture within and around the team had waned since 2012 and traditions and rituals had fallen away and team discipline had declined. Further, elements of selfish behaviour had emerged and had a detrimental impact on team and player cohesion.
Currently, the three key issues are as follows:
- No clearly defined and uniform culture
- Ownership of culture is unclear
- Current environment is not conducive to building and sustaining a strong culture over time
The current culture is driven by individuals and is consequently left to chance instead of being ‘institutionalised’’ and culture seems to be left to the team alone and is not embraced or driven at a higher level i.e. by CSA or the Board. Finally, a clearly defined and documented common purpose with underlying values and behaviours is absent.
ii. Trust, honesty, and communication
A common thread throughout the interviewing process was that of trust or rather the sense that trust has been eroded over time and requires attention. The concerns about honesty and trust referred in particular to all of the relationships between the players, CSA, the Board, and the selectors.
Specific mention was made of the World Cup in 2015 and the issues that arose around that particular event. These were both with regard to the selection for the final match as well as the fact that there was no team debrief following the Proteas being knocked out of the competition.
Other key findings include the following:
- Messages are not always conveyed to dropped players by the person who made the decision
- Reasons for players being dropped are either not provided or are not credible in the view of the player
- Little demonstration of support for players who have been dropped in terms of what they need to do to regain their place
- A perception that Board members take decisions from a personal or political perspective and don’t necessarily do what is ‘right’ for cricket
Ultimately, poor communication and a perceived lack of honesty has eroded the trust relationship and this is a fundamental area to address.
iii. Single, shared objective and vision with specific reference to playing performance
Aligned with the first theme is the fact that, based on the interviews, there is no single, shared performance objective for cricket in South Africa. This relates specifically to actual performance, and not to other elements of the game. In summary:
- There is no shared, single performance objective for the Protea side and no common view of what ultimate performance would incorporate
- Consequently, no specific metric that acts as a ‘barometer’ for measuring success
- All parties are not necessarily working towards the same performance objective so focus areas are different
- Alignment across breadth and depth of cricket is virtually impossible
- Linked to the above is the absence of a specific ‘style’ or ‘brand’ of cricket being played or coached
A very common theme was around the standard of coaching in South Africa at the levels of coaching below the national side. The points can be summarised as follows:
- Quality of coaching below the Protea level and outside of the private ‘academy’ environment raised real concern
- Access to good quality coaches for black African players is severely limited and this hinders the progress of transformation
- Mental and leadership coaching is lacking with the focus being around technical abilities
- There is no common ‘philosophy’ around how cricket should be coached within the system and consequently, no alignment
- National and franchise performance objectives differ and this makes alignment even more difficult
The key needs expressed were for a ‘coach the coaches’ programme and the alignment of all coaches and coaching behind a single brand and style of cricket
The transparency of the selection process and the honesty of communication around this was seriously questioned from a variety of perspectives as follows:
- Players who are being rested or who are ‘sitting out’ for whatever reason believe they are being disadvantaged from two perspectives:
- First, because they are not being financially compensated
- Secondly, because they feel that if they are not playing, their place in the side can be at risk
- With regard to actual selection, diverse views emerged but the weight of the comments leaned towards the selectors choosing the squad but the captain and coach selecting the match team
- No matter which option was preferred, there was a clear acceptance of, and commitment to, adherence to the transformation targets by whoever was doing the selection
- Uncontested was the sentiment that the Board should not have any direct or indirect influence on selection
- The option of making the convenor a full-time position and with additional responsibilities was raised a number of times
vi. Captaincy and leadership
There were two key features of the discussion around this topic.
- First, strong sentiment was expressed around the need for the captain to have far more support and guidance, particularly in the early days
- Further to this point, much was made of the huge step up that captaining the national side requires and consequently the need for increased mentorship and motivation to drive and inspire himself and the team
- Secondly, diverse opinions emerged around the debate on one captain vs three captains for the different formats with no clear consensus
As would be expected, this was a powerful theme and there were many facets to the conversations about transformation. Whilst transformation as such was not within the scope of the panel, it would be remiss to address this given the weight of comment it received during the interviewing process. The key points were as follows:
- Strong support for the concept but diverse views on what a truly ‘transformed’ cricket landscape will look like
- For many, however, true transformation would be an environment where the national side is selected purely on merit because all players have had equal access and opportunity to succeed
- Wide criticism of how the journey to transformation commenced and the lack of transparency but far more comfort now that the targets are clear and are related to a long period of time and not just a single match
- A real concern that development of black African players is far from ideal and that cricket still remains inaccessible to many
- A strong pool of black African players is required so that selection is purely on merit and if the culture and cohesion of the team is to be sustained
- Further, until a strong pool exists, there is a risk that black African players will be labelled as ‘transformation players’ and this will impact negatively on their confidence and performance
- The potential loss of players who are not being selected for transformation reasons seen as a significant risk given the lucrative opportunities that are on offer for international tournaments such as the IPL and Big Bash
- This is evidenced, in part, by the fact that three recent test players have signed Kolpak contracts in the last 12 month
- The need for transformation to be widely embraced at all levels of the game and for it to reach well beyond a ‘numbers game’ was clear if we are to achieve equal access for all
- Finally, comments were made around the need for improved team cohesion through an improved, mutual knowledge and understanding of each player’s culture and background
viii. High performance
The concept of High Performance was widely welcomed but implementation was criticised with the specific findings as follows:
- Concerns around the comprehensiveness and consistency of:
- Individual player planning
- Series, tour or competition planning
- Post-series, -tour or –competition debriefing
- Worries that the HP centre is not being optimally utilised – particularly with regard to communication with the HP centre around player needs
- Questions about the access to, and use of, the HP centre for players of high potential
- Perceptions that the SA A side is no longer the ‘second best’ side in the country and that they have a need for inspiring coaching and access to experts
- Real disconnections exist in the path to the national side in terms of access to facilities, coaching staff and development
- A consequence of the point above is that real talent is ‘leaking’ out of the system
- The need is for every coach to know exactly what to expect from players at every level of the game – and what they need to do to get them to take the next step up
- Ultimately, once a player does warrant selection for the national side, they should be fully rounded and at a similar level in every aspect of their game
A number of comments were made with regard to ex-player involvement and these covered a variety of areas. The concern was that once players leave the Protea set-up, they leave the ‘family’ and this results in their experience, insights and inspirational ability being lost to cricket.
Ex-players have huge respect in the cricketing fraternity and strong reference was made to the potential value of retaining what they have to offer, both through just ‘having them around’ and drawing on their enormous experience in different formats, different countries and different tournaments.
x. International cricket environment
It is no secret that tournaments such as the IPL and Big Bash and other cricketing opportunities such as county cricket in England have enormous appeal because of the significant financial reward that is on offer. This subject came up frequently and some saw it as a threat whilst others (in the minority) saw it as an opportunity. In more detail:
- A tension exists for the players because of the real financial rewards they can gain compared to giving of their best to the Proteas
- Present foreign exchange rates exacerbate the situation and players are torn between the Proteas and their financial wellbeing
- Change-room discussions around IPL during the auctions can also disturb the cohesion between players
- Because of the timetable of international tournaments, players who are competing in tournaments sometimes do not travel with the Protea sides and are not always in peak condition when arriving for a test series
- There is a very real threat but at present, it is a given, so a view should be taken on how best it can be harnessed to the advantage of the Protea side and their performance
The recommendations below are not all specific to the topics addressed under the findings. Rather, they represent as concise a set of recommendations as possible to address as many of the issues as possible. It should be noted that the recommendations focus on the key elements that underpin sustainable world class performance. In summary, the recommendations are as follows:
i. Culture: Build a common and shared purpose that all stakeholders subscribe to in order to address the issues that led to the erosion of the culture within the Protea team. The key recommendations are:
a. Debate, define, document and communicate the culture.
b. Ownership and custodianship to reside with the Board.
c. Define and document a single, sustainable performance objective.
d. Deal with the 2015 World Cup incident directly, honestly, and face to face.
Essentially, a clear, unambiguous and all-embracing statement of the common purpose of all involved in cricket in South Africa is required. Then the values that underpin the purpose and to which everyone should subscribe should be agreed. A next step would be describing and documenting the behaviours that demonstrate alignment with the common purpose and values. Finally, there is a need to communicate, embed and then institutionalise the approach and document throughout the entire cricketing fraternity.
ii. Director of Cricket (DOC): Appoint a Director of Cricket whose function will largely be to oversee the performance management of the Protea teams with ultimate accountability on all issues relating to the performance of the national teams as follows:
a. The Director of Cricket should be an individual with cricketing credibility amongst players and the broader stakeholders.
b. The Director would be appointed by, and report directly into the Board of CSA. The Board should decide where exactly the role would report into but the assumption is that it would be run through the Cricket Committee.
c. Communication about strategic team issues should come through the DOC.
d. The position will have sole and ultimate accountability for the execution of the High Performance plan and the performance of the SA A team and the Proteas.
e. The Director would have to work closely with the coach, players and all those with responsibility for the execution of the high performance plan and for ensuring that the plan is executed in full alignment with the overall purpose, performance objectives and transformation process.
f. Personal player development plans, leadership, planning, mentorship roles and advisory councils to be set up and run through the office of the DOC.
g. The DOC will also co-ordinate the inclusion of ex national players in a meaningful way to enhance the connection with past players and traditions and the deployment of ex-players to bring their mentorship capabilities and capacity into the High Performance system.
iii. Convenor of selectors: Change the current role of the convener of selectors into a permanent position with defined responsibilities for selection as well as talent identification in South African cricket and realign the workings of the selection panel.
a. Convenor of selectors to become a full-time position.
b. Role to be extended to talent identification and management at franchise, U19 and SA A level.
c. Consistent inclusion on selection panel of selector who has extensive international cricket experience.
d. Squad to be selected by selectors, team to be selected democratically by captain, coach, and convenor of selectors.
e. Principle of ‘best man for the job’ to be applied when appointing the captain for the three different formats.
iv. Talent retention: Formulate and execute a strategy to minimise or stop the loss of ‘players of national interest’ in our setup with two key areas of focus as follows:
a. Non-financial: Address issues that have created player discontent and implement the recommendations on cultural changes
b. Financial: Establish a joint committee between CSA and SACA to develop a proposal on how to retain players of national interest from a financial perspective.
v. SA A team and High Performance Centre: Make sure that the role of the SA A team and High Performance Centre is contributing to the sustained success of the Protea by taking the following actions:
a. The SA A coach should be able to call on the very best international expertise as and when required and the set-up of the SA A side should be seen as a step up from franchise level and where players can come as close as possible to experiencing the elements that it will take to succeed in to level international cricket.
b. The High Performance Centre should work in tandem with the SA A and Protea set-up and this demands clear co-ordination and communication with the Protea side and vice versa.
c. Give overall accountability for the execution of the HP plan (once approved) to the GM of Cricket and provide the required support and investment to achieve success.
d. Implement a formal and documented player planning process for all contracted players (to include personal development and to account for international tournaments).
e. Introduce a formal and documented team planning process for all series and tournaments and include documented post-event reviews.
f. Establish a clear set of linkages from each level of cricket to the next to ensure a uniform understanding and implementation of the high performance journey.
g. Introduce an additional two franchises to improve competition and playing opportunities.
vi. Coaching: Develop coaches who have the role of improving the pipeline of players to the Proteas and consider the option of contracting franchise coaches to CSA. Four key elements to this are:
a. Describe, define, and document an emphatic statement of the ‘brand’ of cricket that should be played in South Africa.
b. Align all coaches in the system in terms of coaching style and manner with a documented implementation plan.
c. Develop and implement an outcome-driven ‘coach the coaches’ programme to drive consistency at all levels.
d. Franchise coaches to be jointly contracted by CSA and the franchises to balance franchise and national interests.
vii. Ex-players: Create an environment where ex-players feel included and can be used as a resource to share skills and experiences. Two broad reaching areas to cover are:
a. Establish a ‘Proteas club’ for ex-players and have regular formal and social events to create a sense of inclusiveness and to give current players access to their influence and experience.
b. Use ex-players for general and specific purposes in the Protea set-up with remuneration where appropriate – usually for specific purposes such as mentoring, technical skills or tactical approaches.
5. Summary and the Way Forward
Whilst the number of issues that were raised during the interview process were numerous, wide and varied, the panel is of the opinion that the key elements that have been identified and described. Further, a set of concise recommendations have been made albeit that some of these will require significant resources, both financial and human, to implement. However, the most immediate of the recommendations (Culture) requires a will and a commitment to a single shared purpose and once this has been achieved, the remainder of the recommendations will have a sound framework within which they are to be executed. The steps to achieving this are:
a. Set up a project team around each recommendation
b. Appoint project leaders with clear and single accountability for each project
c. Project leaders to develop proposals including members of project team, individual roles, timelines, investment required and KPIs against which project success will be measured
d. Monitor progress of each project regularly and at the highest level
Potentially use the ICC tournament in June 2017 as a testing ground for whatever recommendations have been implemented (partially or fully)
A very big word of thanks needs to be extended to all of the participants in the process that led to the compiling of the report. The respondents’ willingness to give up their personal time and the manner in which they engaged in the interviews was highly appreciated and added substantially to the depth and insights that were gleaned.
Finally, the fact that the CSA Board recognised the need for this review demonstrates their commitment to helping the national teams to reach the highest level of performance and to sustain this performance over time and this should be applauded.