Cricket, race and demons from the past
“I always felt as if I was on the verge of being dropped. Whenever a new bowler came into the side the question always was whether they were coming to take my position.”
Last week, Givemore Makoni, the ZC convener of selectors, accused the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, of playing the race card following a new and controversial directive guiding the future appointment of selectors for the sport.
The directive, which also covers sports like bowling and rugby, requires selectors to have played for the Zimbabwe national teams, in those disciplines, as a mandatory qualification.
“My thinking was that if the appointment of national selectors was confined to those who had actually played their respective sport at international level, it would better ensure that selectors were adequately qualified to do the job, that the appointment of selectors would be done on a more objective basis and that players were more likely to respect decisions taken by people who had already achieved internationally in that discipline,” Coltart said in a statement.
“Wide cross sections of Zimbabwean sportspersons have told me in the last few years that playing at international level involves a considerable leap in physical and mental expertise which is best understood and appreciated by sportspersons who have experienced that themselves.
“The same sportspersons have advised me that national players are far more likely to respect and accept hard selection decisions made by people who have achieved themselves at the highest level.
“The matter was duly considered by the SRC (Sport and Recreation Commission) and it concurred with the proposals, and a result the directive was issued by the Director General this week.”
Makoni argues that the directive is meant to elbow him out of his job as ZC convener of selectors, because he never played for the national team. But he questions why Coltart is suddenly ignoring that his path to playing for Zimbabwe was blocked by a racist quota system that only kept, at most, two places for black players in the team.
During the 1990s, a number of talented black players found their path to the national team blocked by a secret code where only two places, at most, would be opened for them into what was then an exclusive sporting discipline for whites and Indians.
Makoni, who is also the chief executive of Southern Rocks cricket franchise, said a lot of average white players, who were not as talented as them, were fast-tracked into the national team, on the basis of their colour, and these are the same people who now hold qualifications, according to the latest directive, to be selectors.
“It’s outrageous, to say the least, that a victim who suffered because of racism, and couldn’t play for his country, could be punished, 20 or so years down the line, by a similar racist directive that, because you didn’t play, you can’t be a selector now,” said Makoni.
“The very same people whose system barred us from playing for our national team, simply because we were black, have now come up with a card that we can’t be selectors because they remind us, by opening those wounds, that you didn’t play for the national team.
“Surely, how many times can you kick a man when he is down?
“As long as our Sports Minister, whom we have never trusted in the first place, continues to pretend that everything about cricket, especially its history, was not tainted by racism and there were equal opportunities for everyone to play for the national team, we will have a problem with that.
“It’s the racist system that propped those white boys, who now boast of having played for the national team. And it kept us out of the team, even when we were the better players by a distance. Now they want to use it, indirectly, to kick us out of the game’s key decision-making arms.”
Coltart said he is not playing the race card.
“I have noted with regret the highly intemperate and defamatory statements issued in response to the directive by the erstwhile convener of selectors of Zimbabwe Cricket, Mr Givemore Makoni, claiming, inter alia, that the directive has some racist motive,” said Coltart.
“While I understand Mr Makoni’s distress at losing his job he would have been better advised to take a leaf out of Dale Carnegie’s book regarding how to make friends and influence people.
“His abusive remarks are not only unnecessary but ironically the remarks themselves bring into question his suitability for holding such an important national position.
“I note that Mr Makoni remains manager of the Rocks franchise so his services to cricket will not be lost.
“Be that as it may, it is necessary for me to respond to the specific allegation that this is some racist plot to prevent black Zimbabweans from advancing in cricket.
“Firstly, it is well known that there are numerous black Zimbabweans who have played cricket at international level for Zimbabwe and who have now retired from international cricket, such as David Mutendera, Ethan Dube and Tatenda Taibu, who would make superb selectors.”
Three years ago, former South Africa coach, Mickey Arthur, said in his autobiography, ‘Taking The Mickey’, that Ntini accused him of racism during his time in charge of the Proteas.
Arthur said he lost respect for Ntini after he complained to Cricket South Africa senior officials, Mtutuzeli Nyoka and Ray Mali, following his axing from the ODI team in the 2008/09 season.
“I lost a bit of respect for Makhaya, and I saw a side of him I never suspected existed,” Arthur writes.
“Everybody, especially senior players, is upset when they are dropped, but I was desperately disappointed when Makhaya started telling influential administrators that (SA captain) Graeme Smith and I didn't want black players in the team.”