Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa
Cricket South Africa (CSA) Independent Director Norman Arendse SC is a name familiar to many who know their sport in the country.
Most people will recognise him as a legal practitioner and champion campaigner for transformation – a man fighting for change after a bleak past that denied so many the opportunity of representing the country of their birth on the international stage.
His CV is an impressive one: he is one of the most revered lawyers in South Africa and is a senior advocate who was conferred senior counsel (SC) status by former President Nelson Mandela 24 years ago. He has held numerous leadership positions, amongst them being the first Black Chairperson of the General Council of the Bar (GCB), and the founder of Advocates for Transformation (AFT). He has also acted as a Judge in both the High Court and the Labour Courts from time to time.
In the sports boardroom, the 64-year-old has served at every level of cricket (and football), including being an ex-CSA president, a Lead Independent Director for five years and representing the country at the International Cricket Council (ICC).
But there is more to this man than what many know. He is an individual that has sport deeply engrained in his DNA.
A sporting leader, a talented footballer, a first-class cricketer – just to mention a few.
Arendse was born to working class, illiterate parents in Wynberg, and raised in the shadows of the iconic William Herbert Sports Ground – a venue that hosted provincial football and cricket matches – where his early memories transport him back to. These early memories influenced him profoundly.
“I would go to this very same ground to watch my uncles play cricket or football and that is where my passion for sport was nurtured,” he says. “It was the home of many of the great sportsmen and women who played non-racial sport under the aegis of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS).”
Growing up alongside five other brothers, and in a close-knit community, also ensured that Arendse was always in a competitive environment.
He played soccer at a strong amateur level representing Cape FA, which was based at Turfhall Park near Hanover Park, with many of his friends and contemporaries like the late great Trevor Manuel (not the former Finance Minister), Boebie Solomons and Duncan Crowie, going on to become star
professional footballers and renowned coaches.
Arendse followed a different path though. A top-order batsman and highly-rated off-spinner, he went on to play cricket for Western Province.
“I was privileged enough to play in a team captained by the legendary Abdurahman “Lefty” Adams, but I was very young and recall getting a duck in my first innings,” he says of his debut against Eastern Province in 1977. It was the first time that a provincial match was played on a turf wicket. Arendse was subsequently dropped and then made the team again later on in his late 20s.
When he made his debut for Western Province, he was already in 2nd year law at the University of Cape Town to begin his journey as a lawyer.
He continued to play and administer the game, for many years, something he was initially made to do due to his university education. “If you could read and write you would always be nominated as a secretary or chairperson!
“I played with Vinnie (Vincent) Barnes for the Victoria Cricket Club in the early 1990s and we were the first black club to play in the National Club Championships.
“This iconic Cape Town club was also the first to win the League and Grand Challenge Cup double in the unified Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA), and I’m extremely proud of this. It is the home of Barnes, J P Duminy, Ashwell Prince and Rory Kleinveldt.
“We played against, and beat, the best on offer within the WPCA,” he said.
Earlier, Arendse went to London and studied for a Master’s Degree in Labour Law at University College (University of London), and whilst studying there was awarded his “purples” in cricket and soccer, the highest sporting awards conferred by the University.
Arendse’s commitment to the game is so rooted that he only stopped playing in his early 50s.
“I loved just playing every Saturday afternoon with the youngsters and enjoyed bringing them through,” he said. “So, this game, and sport, played a really critical role in my life.”
When CSA were looking for people to lead the game forward in 2021, the name Arendse had to be amongst them.
However, he takes little credit for his status in cricket circles.
“I think credit must go to those high calibre administrators like Krish Mackerdhuj, Percy Sonn and Ray Mali who were involved at the time. They moulded us”, he modestly attests. “They laid the groundwork for what we’ve got today ensuring that we promote equal opportunities, and that our national teams must be representative of the population of the country.”
Arendse is also pleased with the Board that has been assembled by CSA.
“I myself may not know all the answers, but I can say that the independents on the board have enhanced the quality of governance in the game and I think it was the right thing to do”.
“You have people with expertise in various aspects of the business of cricket. You have people who know marketing, governance, auditing, transformation and crucially, finance…you know people who in their own right have experience in the corporate world of how to take the business of cricket forward.”
Overall, Arendse also paints a bright future for South African cricket.
“Things are beginning to look better and we’re on a better footing now compared to the early days post-apartheid,” he adds. “I wouldn’t yet rest on our laurels”, he cautions, “but we can now look forward to putting cricket on a business footing so that we can attract more money into the game, to develop the game, and to give especially the black-African base and women’s cricket the opportunity to grow and develop.”