“I think sometimes they put in so much work, it goes unnoticed, and it gets watered down by the media.”
The independent inquiry is expected to take place in early 2022. Smith and Boucher will remain in their roles for the time being and perform their duties in the home series against India, which begins with the first Test at Centurion on Boxing Day.
At a pre-series press conference, Elgar mentioned the difficult period that South African cricket has endured in recent months. Asked what was the hardest thing about this period, from the players’ point of view, Elgar responded with his comment about the coaches not being supported enough.
“It’s tough,” Elgar said. “We’ve had so many different administrators that we don’t even know who’s there now. I think maybe the support has been something that’s been quite difficult, especially when it comes to our coaches and our management. I don’t think we’ve gotten a lot of good things about it.
“From the players’ point of view, maybe we have to say, you know what, we support our coaches, we support our management, we have to give them a lot of love. I think sometimes they put in so much work, it’s goes unnoticed, and it’s watered down by the media, and it’s watered down by the articles, and I think that’s the most important thing, because I know what they’re doing behind the scenes, and for me, that says a lot when it comes to our environment.
“One of the most important things is that we haven’t had a lot of stability from an administrative point of view, and I hope that sooner rather than later there will be a lot more stability within Cricket Afrique. But yeah, it’s not nice to see our coaches get castigated for things, and I know the work they do behind the scenes, that no one else sees. Only us as a group of players – we notice it and we see it and we are extremely grateful for the work they put into it.”
Elgar didn’t get a chance to clarify which specific criticisms of coaches he was referring to.
The most serious accusations against Boucher date back to his playing years and the use of a racist nickname by him and other players for Paul Adams, a teammate of color. While Boucher apologized for this in a submission to the SJN, the report suggested that his response revealed a “lack of sensitivity and understanding of the racist undertones” of his comments, and that he was “apathetic towards diversity and the transformation”.
Smith, meanwhile, was South Africa‘s captain when Thami Tsolekile – who had been chosen as Boucher’s long-term replacement as wicketkeeper – was overlooked in favor of de Villiers to take on the role. According to the SJN report, “CSA, Mr. Graeme Smith and some selectors of the era really let down Mr. Tsolekile and many black players of that era in many ways.”
The investigation aside, South African cricket has also had to deal with the cricket fallout from the Omicron strain of Covid-19 – with the domestic premier class tournament stalled, the Mzansi Super League canceled and the next round of forced tests behind closed doors. Elgar said the team’s performance on the field would not be affected by any of this.
“What happens off the pitch, for me, doesn’t matter anymore,” he said. “We as a unit of players have been through such shitty times that we’ve actually bonded so well within our group, and for me that’s not an excuse to use.
“If we were in the first month of all these bad scenarios, then maybe that would be it, but we went there, and I think we formulated something that works for us. I called us the players group. – we are extremely strong, our culture has been tested and pushed to levels I didn’t think it would be pushed to during my short tenure as captain, and I think we have come out on top.
“It all depends on the learning processes behind it all. We always have to keep in mind that even if things are bad off the pitch, we cannot use it as an escape for us. We are a professional team , we are professional players, we want to strive for areas still in terms of where we want to go as a team. We still want to move up the ranking system, and that is our process to the future. We focus on cricket, and I hope cricket will look after us.”