Could Proteas win have saved Boucher’s job?

After a couple of years in the job, it’s fair to say that Boucher has failed to convince many that he is the right man for the role at the helm of the Proteas team.

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For quite some time, the side has looked to be lacking a clear identity, and results have been largely and frustratingly inconsistent.

Towards the end of last year, it was also confirmed that CSA was set to start formal enquiries into the conduct of director of cricket Graeme Smith and Proteas head coach Mark Boucher after the release of the SJN report.

Part of the findings (which are available on the CSA website) revealed that the Ombudsman found the appointments of Smith and Boucher to be “flawed from a procedural perspective”.

The formal inquiries were expected to place early in 2022, and to investigate the conduct of the former Proteas legends. The Ombudsman’s Report included findings that Smith and Boucher had acted in a prejudicial or discriminatory manner.

These investigations are certainly not going to go away, but it will be interesting to see if there is a change to some of the public perceptions around Boucher’s performance-related suitability for the job after such an impressive series win over India.

It was the sort of result that suggested the Proteas are beginning to rediscover what they stand for, with the resurgence of stalwarts such as Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma. Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada proving to be key to the team’s success.

The decision to back youngster Marco Jansen proved to be a superb one, while Keegan Petersen more than vindicated his continued selection at No 3.

Of course there are still big questions about the sustainability of out-of-form Aiden Markram continuing to open the batting, and the role of underperforming Keshav Maharaj, but there are clear signs that the Proteas are suddenly heading in the right direction once again.

Those encouraging signs were also certainly evident when they won all but one game in the T20 World Cup last year.

So, purely from a results and performance point of view, it does feel as if it would be the worst possible time for drastic changes to the coaching setup.

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“I believe that we turned the corner quite a while ago, and our results have been pretty solid over the last six months to a year,” Boucher said after the third Test.

“We went through a period in Covid times when our directive was just to get cricket back up and running, and we tried out a few players, and I think that’s starting to come good now. We’re starting to get a depth of cricketers that we can turn to.

“You lose out on a guy like Anrich Nortje (to injury), who was a big loss for us, but then you get Marco Jansen coming to the party.

“We’re in a good space at the moment, but our feet are firmly on the ground. We know that we’re not the finished product. We’ll enjoy this win, and it’s certainly something we can take a lot of confidence out of.”

Boucher appointment has been questioned

However, the fact remains that no matter whether the Proteas have turned a corner, there will need to be some legitimate answers provided to lingering questions.

When it came to Boucher’s appointment as head coach of Proteas prior to the start of the series with England in December 2019, the SJN reports states “it is clear Mr Smith did not follow any CSA policy in appointing Mr Boucher”.

Enoch Nkwe, who had been interim ‘Team Director’ in 2019 before Boucher’s appointment, was overlooked for the position, and the report contends that race played a determining factor in the decision making.

“Did Mr. Smith and CSA differentiate between black and white coaches when they appointed Mr Boucher to the head coach position? The answer to the question is in the affirmative.”

It further states that CSA “undermined its own transformation imperative in permitting the appointment of Mr Boucher ahead of Mr Nkwe.”

“Mr Nkwe’s resignation should not really come as a surprise to CSA,” the report also asserts in reference to the Proteas assistant coach stepping down in August this year after citing concerns about the team environment and culture.

In response to the SJN report, CSA’s Board agrees wholeheartedly that the issues facing cricket “are a complex interaction of multiple factors stemming from the history of this country and consequent socio-economic factors that prevail today.”

The CSA Board also thanked the Ombudsman for his insights and recommendations and will engage with the report further in the new year.

The Ombudsman’s process was initially due to last four months but was later extended to over six months at the Ombudsman’s request. CSA made available extensive legal and other resources to this Ombudsman for this process, including spending more than R7.5 million on the process, despite an initial budget of R5 million.

He also raised concerns over an “exclusionary culture” in certain incidents in the past when it came to selection of black players.

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