Staff all smiles as Chellan lauds EP’s rich history and talks about plans for the future
There was a telling reaction when new Eastern Province Cricket boss Jesse Chellan walked into the president’s suite at St George’s Park on Monday morning. Gathered in the room, among the media, were EP Cricket staff who had all been invited to bid farewell to the region’s local World Cup contingent, Russell Domingo, Adrian Birrell and Wayne Parnell.
Chellan’s arrival was met with broad smiles from his new staff. One could sense from that significant moment the winds of change have perhaps started stirring within EP’s corridors.
The months of uncertainty and lack of stability through two restructuring processes, the first one botched, have left their scars on the remaining staff.
But there is renewed hope now that the healing process will begin swiftly under Chellan’s three-year watch.
The 50-year-old Durban-born chief executive is a charming man, with a calm demeanour. He speaks in a soft tone but the speech is articulate and confident.
And you can tell cricket flows richly through his veins.
“I grew up in a cricketing family so cricket was part of our heritage and in our blood,” Chellan said this week.
“My uncle Davidson Chellan was a pretty good cricketer in his day.
“He played for the South African Indian team a long time ago now, in the 50s. My dad played cricket and was also involved in administration.
“So cricket has been very much part of our make-up.”
Chellan was born in Durban on October 28, 1964.
His father and grandfather grew up on the famous Michaelhouse School estate where they worked as labourers on the property.
“As a result of that history and heritage, my mother was very forward-thinking when she heard that the school was opening up and put my name forward. I received a bursary to go to the school.”
So, in 1979, Chellan became part of the first groups of black pupils to go to the school. He matriculated in 1982.
“I did a tour with the Michaelhouse first cricket team in 1981. We came to Grahamstown and played St Andrew’s and Kingswood. Gavin Victor hit us far that day. I think he was only 16 but he scored a lot of runs against us.”
After school, he qualified as a pharmacist at the University of DurbanWestville in 1989.
“I worked in the pharmaceutical industry in production and logistics for Adcock Ingram in Durban for many years and when that plant closed down, I moved to Johannesburg in 1996 and worked for the multinationals there in different roles, mainly in the animal health industry.”
Chellan also speaks fondly of his cricketing days. He played club cricket and also for Natal before unification and Natal B post unity.
He recalls playing against the likes of Haroon Lorgat, Gerald Majola, Khaya Majola, Andre Peters, Vernon Prince and Richard Dolley.
While still in Gauteng, Chellan was approached by then Titans administrator Brandon Foot.
“I played club cricket in Pretoria and Brandon approached me to come join the Northerns executive.
“I spent 10 years as a volunteer on the Northerns executive, four year as president. During that time I also sat on the board of CSA.”
His volunteer status morphed into a more full-time role when he returned to Durban as chief executive of the Dolphins.
“When my sons finished school in 2008 and 2009, it was a good chance to consider getting involved in cricket full-time. That’s why I joined the Dolphins.
‘I was there for five years. The support that I got there was good and we managed to move Dolphins forward to where it is now.”
And now Chellan brings all that expertise to EP Cricket in pursuit of steering the body in the right direction.
“Being here this last week has been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet all the people and getting to grips with cricket in the area.”
Chellan’s role is to look after the stadium and all matters amateur, from the provincial team down to clubs, schools and mini-cricket.
“So within that, I’ve got to make sure we secure sponsorship for EP, for the stadium. There is some work being done behind the scene to secure a Warriors sponsorship (Chevrolet’s commitment ends this year) and possible naming rights to the stadium.
“But it’s premature for me to comment on that because it is being handled by the Warriors board and the president.”
Asked what challenges his new position would pose, Chellan said: “EP Cricket has a strong legacy.
“It goes back 100 years in different forms and it means different things to different people. My role is to continue with that legacy of EP Cricket. Within the South African context, it is vital that Eastern Cape cricket is strong.
“Ideally, we should be a feeder for the national team in a big way.
“In the broader term, that is what I need to look at. It is premature for me to give you the details around that. I still need to speak to the board.
“We need to understand the board’s vision going forward. I’m meeting with staff members, firstly to understand a bit more about them and then, secondly, to understand the challenges from their perspective, and then marry the two together.
“Yes, I do understand there are some financial challenges.
“But in terms of board vision and where we are going it will be premature at this point to comment.”