Johannesburg - The Highveld Lions aren’t so much galloping down the home straight as the 2017/18 domestic season comes to an end as crawling in on all fours.
There is only a statistical chance that they will grasp silverware in the Sunfoil Series, having finished fifth out of six in the One Day Cup, and talk in Joburg cricket circles is rife that coaches Geoffrey Toyana and Gordon Parsons will pay for the under-achievements with their jobs.
“The rumours have probably got fire behind them,” said a member of the Lions support staff who didn’t want to be named.
Regarding changes to the current coaching and playing staff, Lions chief executive officer Greg Fredericks wouldn’t comment on specifics, but said there would most likely be significant changes.
The disappointments of a poor season have been exacerbated by the open secret that Fredericks and his president Jack Madiseng have a strained working relationship. Fredericks admitted that he had tendered his resignation at least once.
Madiseng took over from current acting chief executive at Cricket SA Thabang Moroe as Gauteng Cricket Board president.
Fredericks described him as “a very ambitious and energetic kind of guy. There was some overlap between operational and strategic matters, but I’m happy to say that Jack and I have sorted all of that out.”
Adding to the pressures of a forgettable season, just this week the International Cricket Council awarded three demerit points to the Wanderers after groundsmen Bethuel Buthelezi and Chris Scott prepared a wicket for the third Test against India that was roundly criticised.
The loss of two further points could see the Wanderers’ Test status revoked for a year - a disaster for one of the most iconic stadiums in the world.
Fredericks believes the pair were put under too much pressure by being asked to prepare a wicket to order. He said it wouldn’t happen again.
A “pink day” one-day international against India and a Test match against Australia have to be negotiated before the season is over, but Fredericks is confident the third Test scenario won’t happen again.
The past seven months have been a cricket nightmare for Toyana. It was widely assumed he was a shoo-in for Russell Domingo’s job as national coach, but he interviewed badly. Suddenly, Ottis Gibson, the then England bowling coach, was being mentioned as a potential Domingo replacement.
One of the questions Toyana was apparently asked had to do with the match-fixing scandal at the Lions, which saw five members of the squad - Alviro Petersen, Thami Tsolekile, Jean Symes, Pumi Matshikwe and Lonwabo Tsotsobe - banned from cricket and cricket-related activities for a range of periods.
It is understood that Toyana, although not in any way involved with the flirtation with match-fixing, was asked why it happened on his watch. When this was put to Fredericks, he said he felt it was an unfair line of questioning and put it down to greed and the once-off mistakes of impressionable individuals.
“We’ve lost such experience because of that and we’ve also lost players such as Neil McKenzie (to retirement) and Temba Bavuma (to the Cape Cobras).
“If you look at the teams who’ve done well in the limited-over game - look at Morné van Wyk at the Dolphins - it’s all about experience in the middle order. That’s something we’ve lacked,” he said.