Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa
An expert farmer changes to an expert in agriculture. These are two of the stand-out qualities of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Non-Independent Director Craig Nel.
The 49-year-old is skilled on many other fronts too. The Mpumalanga Cricket President has done virtually everything in the sport, from player to coach to selector to administrator.
He served many cricket sporting bodies over the years; he is part of the Members’ Council of CSA, and was Chairperson of the Titans Cricket Franchise Forum, a selector and Board member of SA
Rural Cricket. Nel’s strength lies in governance, policy and process, together with experience in human resources, transformation, audit and risk as well as working for social and ethics committees.
Away from cricket he is a successful businessman. Coming from a farming family – his parents were farmers – he is the founder of agricultural giants Alliance Seeds, which he established in 2000 and sold 20 years later to SeedCo International and Limagrain, both internationally listed companies with
Nel, who hails from White River, is amongst the 15-member strong Board who have been tasked with governing the game for the next few years. This diverse team has been in place for a little over 14 months now and their impact has already been significant.
The profile of the game has pointedly improved during their brief period in office, with further improvement expected in the months ahead.
“I’m an all or nothing type of person; I will throw everything I’ve got at it, and I’d like to, at a risk of cliché, leave it in a better place than I found it,” an ambitious Nel says. “So that’s my target. I’ve always done things that way where I felt that if you do something, give it your all and you leave it in a place that it certainly wasn’t before. That’s my philosophy.”
The former fast bowler has a long affiliation with the game. It started out at Uplands Prep, a small private school in White River where he was groomed, and the journey continued through his high school years at Pretoria Boys.
Nel, whose heroes growing up were Richard Snell and Jimmy Cook, played cricket through university too whilst at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha where he pursued a degree in the Arts.
Thereafter he spent a few seasons playing league cricket in England and at the same time turned out for Mpumalanga. He even featured for South Africa: not the Proteas but the SA Country Districts against Bangladesh in Nelspruit during 2002.
Whilst playing cricket, he also got involved in coaching it – something that had a significant impact on him personally, even today.
“It was around 1997 when I got back from England when I used to voluntarily go into the townships to coach,” Nel recounts. “I spent a lot of time in a place called Swalala. Here I learnt a lot about how one guys old is another guys’ new.
“I was getting some old kit from kids, and I was passing it on to these children in Swalala who had nothing. Just to see those little boy’s faces after receiving that kit, which was throw out kit for some, was just awesome.
“What I’m trying to get to is that every little bit makes an impact. Every little bit can make a difference and count. Every little bit can work towards making cricket more inclusive. It doesn’t have to start with fancy or brand-new kit that you give to people. It can really be about making that small difference where you’ve got some old pads lying around or an old bat lying around that you can give to someone.”
It is those memories that give him hope that the game has been doing a lot of right things in the three decades since the end of apartheid.
Nel added: “I would say that cricket is definitely on the right track. We really are mindful of what Cricket South Africa’s vision is to make it a fully inclusive sport.
“I would say from that perspective, achieving the goals would certainly be sticking to the vision that we have established as a Board of Cricket South Africa…following our principles, following our processes, and making sure that along the way we tick those boxes. We really need to put our money where our mouth is because I think that is something that’s important. It’s easy to talk a good game, but whether you implement it is a different scenario,” Nel concluded.