Cricket SA tries to balance the race card
Harare – When you visit the official website of Cricket South Africa, you are likely to be greeted by a graphic image of a white cricketer on the extreme left side and a black, coloured or Indian cricketer on the far right side.
For a casual observer, these images look normal – after all, they are pictures of the players who drive the Proteas and have turned this team into the number one Test side in world cricket.
But there is a very big reason why the Cricket South Africa (CSA) media managers need to have the presence of a white and a black player, on opposite ends, with such prominence on their Internet home page.
For a game that has always had to face some very difficult questions about transformation and why black players struggle to break into the national team, when they make up 80 percent of the population, looks are very important. Even when the statistics could be damning.
Only five black African players have played for the Proteas at Test level in the past 22 years that the South Africans have been back in the international cricket fold. Makhaya Ntini, a legendary figure who broke the barriers and went on to play in more than 100 Tests for the Proteas and even took 10 wickets at Lord’s, leads that cast of black players who include Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Mfuneko Ngam, Monde Zondeki and Thami Tsolekile.
To their credit, there is a frank admission, from the game’s leadership, that more could have been done to bring in black players into the mainstream of the national teams.
“Everybody agreed that we have failed in terms of black African players and that drastic measures must be taken,” Norman Arendse, CSA's lead independent director who is also chairman of the transformation committee, told ESPN cricinfo recently.
But, it appears, the authorities are now ready to act and address the situation and last week the CSA board adopted a number of measures aimed at balancing the act.
The board is even dangling some incentives to help the cause of bringing in a number of black players into the mainstream structures of the game.
“The Board of Directors of Cricket South Africa met on Friday, ahead of its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, and adopted a combination of incentive-driven and sanction-based policies to accelerate the development of black African players,” CSA chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, said on a statement posted on their official website.
“The decision was arrived at following wide ranging resolutions put forward at last month’s Transformation Indaba.
This means that, with effect from October 16, 2013:
· All Franchises that play more than one black African player for more than 70 percent of the matches across all three formats will be reimbursed the average contract cost of the qualified Black African players. Franchises are expected to have at least one Black African player in their starting line-ups.
· All semi-professional teams that play more than two black African players for more than 70 percent of the matches across all three formats will be reimbursed the average contract cost of the qualified black African players. Semi-professional teams are expected to have at least two Black African players in their starting line-ups.
· All Affiliate teams and squads below Franchise and semi-professional level, including youth cricket, must work towards selecting at least three black African players who shall play in at least four of the six (66 percent) of the matches at any tournament. This will come into force during the 2014/15 season.
“It is encouraging to see our coaches, players and administrators support the drive for accelerated transformation, which has culminated in these practical decisions.
“The CSA Board has also supported a recommendation from the Cricket committee to implement a more flexible player loan agreement to facilitate the development of black African players. This is currently being drafted in consultation with the South African Cricketers Association (SACA).
“The Board also agreed to monitor the quality of opportunity, performance and progress made by black African players in the domestic competitions during the 2013/14 season before considering any further proposals for next season.”
Towards the end of last year, Ntini triggered a storm for CSA when he suggested that Tsolekile would have been considered, for the Test squad’s tour to Australia, as a replacement for the injured JP Duminy, if he was white.
Ntini criticised the team over the alleged preference of ‘white’ bowlers in the Test squad.
“Tsolekile would have been playing if he was white. People will say we are talking politics, but we need to say these things,” Ntini told the Australian media.
“I don`t understand how we can only have one black cricketer in our (Test) squad. What`s going on? In the whole squad – one.
“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.”
Two years earlier, former Proteas coach Mickey Arthur fired a broadside at Ntini, in his memoirs published in the Saturday Star, accusing the retired fast bowler of using race to keep his spot in the team.
Arthur, who was sacked by Australia just before the start of the Ashes series against England this year, claimed Ntini complained he had been left out of the ODI team in 2008 because the coach and skipper Graeme Smith did not want black players in the team.
“That was when I lost a bit of respect for Makhaya, and saw a side of him I never suspected existed,” Arthur, who claimed the real reason why Ntini was dropped was due to poor form, wrote.
“Everybody, especially senior players, is upset when they are dropped, but I was desperately disappointed when Makhaya started telling influential administrators that Graeme Smith and I didn't want black players in the team.”