Graeme Smith, South Africa’s former captain, is in line to be their first director of cricket, a position created in the aftermath of their 2019 World Cup exit. Smith confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he was interviewed by the board this week.
Suspended interim director of cricket, Corrie van Zyl, and former national selector Hussein Manack were also interviewed for the job, which is expected to be filled inside two weeks, leaving enough time for the appointee to settle in before the home series against England that begins on Boxing Day.
The director will be responsible for overseeing all cricket played under CSA’s ambit, which includes the national teams, high-performance teams, age-group structures and the domestic set-up as well. While similar to the ECB’s post – first occupied by Andrew Strauss and now Ashley Giles – it also requires skills in human resources, financial management and managing CSA’s transformation strategy. The CSA’s advertisement required interested candidates to have a qualification in sports management and at least 10 years experience either working in sports or media management, coaching or playing at a first-class level or above.
Smith, van Zyl and Manack were interviewed by a five-person panel which included CSA board members Jack Madiseng, Shirley Zinn, Tebogo Siko, and Dawn Makhobo, along with board CEO Thabang Moroe.
Smith has the highest profile among the three candidates. He had a decade-long playing career with South Africa and was both their youngest and longest serving captain. Since retiring in 2014, he is best known for his commentary but has also dabbled in the business of cricket as well.
Six months after quitting the game, Smith joined financial services company Momentum – who were sponsors of South Africa’s ODI team at the time – as part of their corporate social responsibility team. He was involved in the setting up of a cricket sixes event, the proceeds of which went to a conservation charity involved in saving the much-poached rhino. Later in 2014, Smith was named ambassador of the Ram Slam T20, South Africa’s domestic 20-over competition, which was attempting to attain the same status as some of T20 leagues around the world. The tournament no longer exists and has since been replaced by the Mzansi Super League.
While Smith would appear as the frontrunner, both van Zyl and Manack have adequate experience and credentials which will leave the panel with a tough decision to make, one that may ultimately come down to how much money CSA is able to spend on this position. The board is forecasting debt of R654 million (approx USD 44 million) over the next four-year cycle and has put cost-cutting measures in place, including a proposed restructuring of the domestic system that is being challenged by the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) in court at the moment.
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Van Zyl, who has served as general manager to CSA since May 2009 – which included a stint as head coach during the 2011 World Cup. He has extensive knowledge of how the board works and was appointed as interim director of cricket post the 2019 World Cup, only to be suspended late last month for alleged dereliction of duty.
Van Zyl’s suspension did not prevent him from being interviewed though. Apart from his experience with CSA, van Zyl was also head coach of Free State from May 1994 to April 1998 and of the Eagles and now Knights franchise from September 2003 to April 2009. He also has a Certificate in Sports Management from Royal Holloway, University of London.
Manack has significant experience in the South African system as well, having most recently served on the selection panel whose tenure ended after the World Cup. Hussein was a national selector for seven years from 2012 to 2019, was the convener of selectors at the Lions franchise from 2011 to 2014 and served on the Gauteng Cricket and Lions board. He has both a Level 3 coaching certificate and UK National Cricket Association coaching qualification, a new Manager’s Programme in Business Administration and Sport and Event Management from the University of the Witwatersrand and has worked as the Managing Director of a manufacturing and retail company for more than a decade.
Manack is a regular voice on radio commentary in South Africa and also has a long playing career behind him, the bulk of which fell during the Apartheid years, which denied him the opportunity to progress through the ranks in the same way van Zyl and Smith did. Still, he was part of history when he was selected as a non-playing member of the South African squad that toured India on the original Friendship Tour in 1991.
No international candidates were in the mix for the director of cricket role.
South Africa are also expected to confirm a men’s team director soon. Enoch Nkwe occupied the position on the recent tour to India and though they lost the Test series 0-3, he remains the leading candidate after assurances he would not be judged on the results of that series.
CSA has also conducted interviews for a new convener of selectors and Linda Zondi was among those under consideration. Despite a successful tenure which brought through players like Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj and elevated Faf du Plessis to the captaincy, Zondi is understood to have had a falling out with members of CSA and may not be reappointed.
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