Cricket South Africa's (CSA) desperation to appoint Graeme Smith took another leap sideways on Monday when the former Test captain clarified his position in the wake of weekend claims that he was about to join the ailing organisation.
"Contrary to media reports I have not been appointed director of cricket by CSA," Smith wrote on social media. "As previously advised I withdrew my application for the role. I am, however, in ongoing discussions with CSA, but I still have real concerns, which I have reiterated to them."Smith was the preferred candidate for the position, not least because he would lend much needed credibility to crisis-ridden CSA.
But, on November 14, he said on social media he had "unfortunately withdrawn" his interest for the role.
"I would love to have taken on the role. However, despite my obvious desire to make a difference during the long and, at times, frustrating process over the last 10 or so weeks of discussions, I have not developed the necessary confidence that I would be given the level of freedom and support to initiate the required changes."
Nothing seems to have changed, despite the Sunday Times - South Africa's leading newspaper - claiming as fact this week that Smith is "in the powerful position of director of cricket".
According to sources, CSA's president, Chris Nenzani, has "begged" Smith to accept the position - and that Smith's reticence hinges on the performance of Thabang Moroe, the controversial chief executive who has engineered ever more authority for himself and had a hand in key administrative appointments at other levels.
Smith would seem to have little confidence that he could work with Moroe, which would of course put his own reputation at stake.That view would only have strengthened on Sunday, when five senior cricket journalists had their accreditation revoked with no reason given. Six hours later they had been reinstated. But, it appears, only until Monday morning, when Moroe went on radio to say reporters would not be accredited unless they met with him to "discuss their work".
The South African National Editors' Forum is known to have taken up the issue, with one of their office-bearers promising a "hammer and tongs" statement in the journalists' defence.
CSA simply have to accept that good news is hard to find in South African cricket. The ongoing Mzansi Super League (MSL), which is understood to have run at a USD 5.44-million loss in its inaugural season last year and is set to bleed USD 6.8-million this year.
Those amounts will dwindle down a drain of debt that could add up to USD 68-million by the end of the 2022 rights cycle.
Meanwhile, CSA is strewn with interim appointments and suspensions, and saddled with a board that seems dangerously unconcerned or even unaware that Rome is burning. The uncertainty extends to the selection panel, which was disbanded in the aftermath of South Africa's disappointing men's World Cup and has not been replaced officially.
With the Test series against England set to start in Centurion on December 26, who would pick the squad? "The interim director of cricket, Corrie van Zyl, and Enoch Nkwe," Moroe was quoted as saying in Rapport, another Sunday paper, when he was asked who the selectors were. The trouble with that statement is that Van Zyl is currently suspended over his alleged role in a delayed payment - since settled with the help of legal action - to the players involved in last year's MSL, and Nkwe was appointed South Africa's interim team director for the tour to India only. Attempts to ascertain whether Nkwe will still be in the role for the England series have been thwarted by CSA's diabolically unhelpful approach to communicating with the press.
Ask yourself, if you were Graeme Smith, one of the most respected people in world cricket and at 38 still a young man with a lot to gain and lot to lose in life, would you want to be part of all that?