Cape Town – English cricket has many natural advantages over its South African equivalent, not least in infinitely superior financial/commercial and broadcasting clout, its more “centre of the world” geographical feel and as symbolic home and birthplace of the game.
But when their current national team venture to these shores – along with an anticipated many thousands of supporters – very shortly for an all-formats tour, they will boast rare levels of additional ascendancy unrelated to any purely cricketing match-up thoughts.
Their four-Test, three-ODI and three-Twenty20 internationals roster will coincide with a period of unprecedented controversy, chaos and instability in the corridors of power at Cricket South Africa (CSA), which runs the risk of impacting on the performance of the Proteas in the keenly anticipated on-field combat.
While counterparts the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) cannot presently claim that their national team are top of the pile in Test terms – they will arrive just off a 0-1 series setback in New Zealand and are now effectively ranked level with SA in third on the ICC ladder behind India and the Black Caps – their suits can probably claim that they must be doing something right as England will tour here as World Cup champions of the 50-overs format.
The one obvious English edge, in advance of the summer clashes, will be in their general level of consistency and certainty in key positions directly above the team itself … as well as a tangibly stronger sense of genuine cricketing “name” figures occupying the berths from an England perspective.
That should become increasingly obvious once you have assessed the comparative exercise below …
Director of cricket
England: Ashley Giles
The former England left-arm spinner was formally appointed to the role almost exactly a year ago, replacing popular, famously Ashes 2005 drought-breaking former national captain and opening batsman Andrew Strauss, who had stepped down primarily because of his wife’s serious illness (she died a few weeks later).
Upon his appointment, Giles was described by ECB CEO Tom Harrison – himself a former first-class cricketer (for Derbyshire), unlike CSA counterpart Thabang Moroe – as the “standout candidate amidst a very strong field”.
Giles, 46, has cut his teeth patiently in post-playing capacities: he became county side Warwickshire’s director of cricket some 12 years ago, and has subsequently also been an England selector, before taking up his present role.
His highest-level playing pedigree involves 54 Test and 62 ODI appearances between 1998 and 2006.
South Africa: Post created … but currently unoccupied
CSA currently has long-serving former SA fast bowler Corrie van Zyl (though suspended at present, a further complication) in a director’s role, albeit of a different type envisaged for the new portfolio established – a good move, in fairness to the embattled organisation – after the World Cup 2019 debacle, and which should more closely resemble the English model represented by Giles.
The name of iconic former Proteas captain and gnarly, decorated opening batsman Graeme Smith has been strongly touted as a possible filler of the void (with time running precariously short now to the first Test on Boxing Day at Centurion).
But there’s been a confusing, “will he, won’t he?” period in the last fortnight or so, with fresh weekend reports that he may have settled some stumbling-block issues to his appointment and is about to be installed, again seemingly premature.
Should “Biff” eventually agree terms, however, his obvious inexperience in a collar-and-tie capacity would be hugely offset, in the eyes of many in the public, by his titanic playing experience at the highest level – encompassing 347 cross-format SA caps.
England: Chris Silverwood
Yorkshire-born Silverwood played the majority of his six England Tests on a single tour … against South Africa in 1999/2000 (including a five-for in the signature New Year Test at Newlands), so he has some knowledge of the environment and conditions here in his still relatively new capacity as national head coach, succeeding the experienced Trevor Bayliss.
But the fast bowler had a 184-appearance first-class career, playing for Yorkshire and Middlesex, and also spent some time representing Mashonaland in Zimbabwe.
He cut his teeth in coaching as bowling guru for Essex in 2010, gradually rising to assume the head coaching role in 2016 and leading them to the County Championship title in 2017.
South Africa: Effectively Enoch Nkwe, but in title of “interim team director”
Soweto-born Nkwe has no international playing experience, but the 36-year-old (a record young age in his current capacity for the Proteas) all-rounder represented Gauteng/Highveld Lions between 2002 and 2009 – his career was cruelly cut short at 26 through injury.
Initially in his coaching career an assistant for the SA U19 side and the Netherlands national team, he quickly enough asserted himself when appointed the Lions franchise coach in 2018; they won two of the major domestic trophies.
As head coach of the Jozi Stars in the inaugural Mzansi Super League last season, they won the title.
But his baptism as Test level mastermind for South Africa was a tough one, the Proteas being whitewashed 3-0 in India a few weeks ago, and his long-term future remains unclear.
England: Ed Smith, James Taylor (plus head coach Silverwood)
Smith, 42, is effectively the convenor, and comes off a strong personal background in the game: apart from being a writer and commentator, the batsman played for Kent and Middlesex and also in three Tests during the home series against South Africa in 2003 – when still-raw visiting namesake, Graeme, made his stirring mark with successive double centuries.
Diminutive, Nottingham-born stroke-player Taylor, meanwhile, was appointed to the panel on a fulltime basis in mid-2018 – a little unusually at the age of only 28.
But it was a lauded installation, nevertheless, the seven-cap Test player (plus 27 ODIs) having had to retire suddenly in 2016 due to a heart condition.
South Africa: All berths undecided
Many months have gone by now without the Proteas having either a confirmed convenor or even back-up panel, since Linda Zondi’s term in charge came to an end after the unsuccessful 2019 World Cup.
Indeed, much of the furore this week surrounding the withdrawal of CSA accreditation to five journalists seemingly began when one of them, Stuart Hess, revealed some of his exchanges with newly-appointed CSA media and communications head Thamie Mthembu.
Among them, Mthembu reportedly queried why “any reader would be interested” in who precisely picked the team for the England series; it is expected to be tasked to a temporary “technical panel”.
One of the favourites for the new convenorship, when it eventually happens, is tipped to be Patrick Moroney – an administrator with the Gauteng Cricket Board with no first-class playing record of his own.
Published at Tue, 03 Dec 2019 13:12:49 +0000