by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 21st 2013)
No wicket-keeper has more victims than Mark Boucher in Test cricket. Boucher was forced to retire due to a freak eye injury. He was on the verge of reaching the 150 Test Matches mark. Boucher is happy in retirement, enjoying golf, business interests and his passion – wildlife. The gloves for the top-ranked team in the world were left in the capable hands of A B de Villiers.
Boucher’s injury highlights the transient nature of sport and needs of sports-people to organise themselves for life after sport – an exit plan. The Acting CEO of Cricket South Africa (CSA) Jacques Faul gave Empower-Sport an exclusive interview before his recent departure to take the same role for the Pretoria-based team the Titans. CSA was rocked by the bonus scandal which cost then CEO Gerald Majola his job. Faul took over temporarily.
He highlighted the need for cricketers to plan for their futures. “I think an exit plan for ex players is essential, but it’s not so easy when you think about it, because the modern game’s changed,” Faul told us. “Nobody has got other skills or qualifications, plus they earn a lot more. If you play in the IPL [Indian Premier League] at least you get a decent income, so yeah, they’re earning a bit more money, but you’re still between the age of 30 or 40 at the latest, probably would give up playing.”
Integrating into the Set-up
There are obviously difficulties. Boucher is a legend in South African cricket. Potentially he and other recently retired players have much to offer. “Of course we want to get him involved – such an experienced player, a player that’s remembered for his tenacity – if you can actually coach that I’m not so sure.,” Faul says. “Yeah, he would be considered.” But are they ready to go to straight into an off the field role?
“Again it depends on how much he [Boucher] wants to get involved with it as well and we’d be keen to reach out to him and get him involved – at least talk about it,” Faul said. “Again if that’s something he wants to do. He might want to pursue other business interests. I think he’s looked after his money quite smartly.” There are many others who haven’t planned their lives after cricket as well as Boucher. We have an exclusive interview with Boucher too which we’ll feature in the magazine soon.
One route for former players is coaching. They have a wealth of experience and cricket knowledge to give. “I mean these individuals have actually got a lot of skills,” Faul says. “It is sad when somebody comes from earning such a high income and then struggle to look after himself financially.”
As in other sports there are limited opportunities in coaching. Some do not not have the commitment or passion for it. Football has similar issues. “Just remember in the coaching set-up we can only look after so many people,” Faul said. “There’s going to be people that’s coaching. We can’t just let them go. That creates an issue as well, but to my mind it is something we have sat down with the Players’ Association and say, ‘How can we do this better?’”
Faul is clear that cricket has to look after its former players. “I think there is an obligation to look after players once they exit the professional game,” Faul told us. “For me there’s a difference between exit from the game and something that happens unfortunately where you and me we all go and insure ourselves. I think there’s a huge obligation to ensure after exit that we make sure that there is a continuous way of looking after yourself and of your income and we will get better at it.”
He believes that accidents are a different matter. “We try and address it through the Players’ Association with various insurances,” he says. “I also think a player has got an individual obligation. I work in administration. If I have an accident, then I can’t look after my family. I’ve got to look after it as well.”
It’s easy to forget how young South African cricket is comparatively and that it will require time to catch up off the field too. “Remember the professional cricket era in South Africa is 20 years old, so it’s not really that old and I think going forward, we will get better at it,” Faul said. “What is sad is that people who played in the amateur era probably look at us and say, ‘Why are you moaning and bitching about it? I was the greatest player in the world and never earned the money you did,’”
Faul is under no illusions though. “There’s still an obligation to look after players,” he insists. “It’s an educational process. If you’re earning a lot of money now, you’re seeing what’s in front of you. We have very good agents and with all due respect not so good agents, but a player’s got to realise – the first thing he’s got to realise is at some stage he won’t be earning money as a player and there’s got to be a plan going forward.”