Racism storm hits SA cricket

Robson Sharuko
Harare. – THE raging storm that brought down Cecil John Rhodes’ statute at the University of Cape Town appears to have swept into the Cricket South Africa boardroom amid damaging claims by some of the black players that they are being given a raw deal when it comes to selection for the Proteas.
The Black Cricketers In Unity have dubbed their campaign, #DrinksCarriersMustFall, in a satirical portrayal of themselves as mere water and drink carriers when they are selected for the national team.

Last week they wrote an Open Letter to Cricket South Africa, asking for their concerns to be addressed, amid widespread disillusionment, among some of the black players, that they are not being given a fair deal by the game’s leadership.

The issue of whites being given favours, when it comes to selection to national teams, has been an explosive one in South African sport, more than two decades since the country waved goodbye to racist apartheid and embraced a Rainbow Nation in which all the races were equal.

Recently, the Springboks had to weather a storm when people concerned that they weren’t enough black players in the team, ahead of the Rugby World Cup in England, even went to the extent of launching a court application to try and bar the team from travelling to the showcase.

However, although that application failed, the judge noted that there was merit in the issues being raised that, more than 20 years after Independence, the game had not embraced more of its black players and continued to be dominated by whites.

Now, the battle has been taken into the boardroom of the organisation that governs cricket in South Africa with a group calling itself the Black Cricketers in Unity saying that the composition of the Proteas remains largely in favour of white players.

Makhaya Ntini, who emerged to become a symbol of black excellence when it comes to cricket in South Africa, also criticised the way the selection policy appeared to be in favour of whites than blacks during his illustrious playing career.

Interestingly, Cricket South Africa was suspended from the International Cricket Council in 1970 because of racial discrimination.
Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, appears to support the issues raised by the disgruntled cricketers who argue that while they are being selected for the national team squad they are rarely picked to play in the first XI.

“I’m glad it’s not Mbalula speaking about these issues but the players who have been there and are in the system,” Mbalula told the weekly City Press newspaper.
“They are taking about issues that affect them directly.

“I support the stance taken by the players. First, I must say I am not perplexed by the issues they raise as they are not new.
“The issues of players being selected but not picked for matches is old and has not been raised by the players but the public.

“The players are not doing this for themselves but for generations to come.
“I have heard that the CSA is planning to meet the players and I am encouraged by that.
“The meeting should happen as a matter of urgency.”

The players feel that they are being elbowed out of the game and given a raw deal, when it comes to selection, compared to their white counterparts.
“The treatment of Aaron Phangiso has been nothing short of shocking this year,” they said in their letter.

“At 31 years of age, the Highveld Lions spinner is no rookie. He has been part of the South African set-up since he was a teenager, playing in the same South African Under-19 team as the current Proteas stalwarts AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander.

“Phangiso was the only player within the Proteas 15-man World Cup squad not to play a single match at this year’s World Cup.
“Even the might of the United Arab Emirates was considered too great a challenge for the man from Garankasa.

“Then, when your conscience bothered you, or perhaps more accurately, you were reminded of your own ‘aggressive transformation policy’ you select Phangiso in your Test squad for Bangladesh despite the left-arm spinner having long stopped buying bleach to clean his white flannels due to his inactivity for the Lions in the first class arena.”

The cricketers claimed Khaya Zondo was being used as a “water boy”.
“If we are not ready for international cricket, stop picking us.”

Matters, it appears, came to a head when Dean Elgar was flown to India to cover for the injured Duminy when Zondo had been playing that role all along.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Thami Tsolekile have also been named as players who have suffered because of the colour of their skin.

CSA chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, said he was disappointed that the issue has now spilled into the public domain.
“Matters of this nature need to be dealt with responsibly by all the affected parties before a full and accurate report can be presented to the public,” Lorgat said in a statement.

“It is disappointing when a letter of this nature finds its way into the media because we do not solve issues in the media.
“It is heartening to note the transformation progress we have made over the past two years and we will not rest until we reach all our goals, including our national teams representing all the people of our country.”

December 2015
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