As good as Lungi Ngidi is, as a Hilton College alumnus he is a product of an outdated delivery mechanism.
TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
“OF course it isn’t true,” was among the first things Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) media officer told this reporter on April 7, 2000 — the day Hansie Cronje was charged by the Delhi police for his dealings with cricket’s gambling underworld.
Of course all who heard Kyle Abbott profess his commitment to South Africa’s cause on December 23, 2016 believed him — until January 5 last year, when he confirmed he had signed a Kolpak deal with Hampshire.
Of course a report in the Mumbai Mirror this week quoting Albert Morkel — father of Albie and Morne — as saying, in essence, that white players were being worked out of the game in South Africa was rubbished.
Anything else would challenge what has become cricket’s dominant narrative in this country: that it must be darkened at all costs if it is to have a future of any significance.
That is, of course, true. From junior to test level, cricket needs more black players if it is to survive as part of South Africa’s culture and prosper in the international arena.
But keeping those black players in the system, while doing right by everyone else, is made fiendishly difficult by the hard truth that teams are limited to 11 players and by the intense competition for black talent in other sport and business spheres.
One black administrator nailed the dilemma this week: “We can’t have players in the national team who are not good enough, which is not fair to anyone especially those players. And we can’t not have black players coming into the national team.”
Another black administrator described the decline of cricket in schools that aren’t among the handful from which South Africa’s best players have, once because of their race and affluence, always emerged: “We’re losing so many kids to basketball.”
Part of the answer to all this angst, you would think in this week of all weeks, is two short but powerful words: Lungi! Ngidi!
But Ngidi is but one fine, young, black player. How many others who might also have been in South Africa’s test team are instead becoming associates in law firms? And as good as Ngidi is, as a Hilton College alumnus he is a product of an outdated delivery mechanism.
Cricket must tap the huge reservoir of talent that lay beyond the walls of a few elite schools — which means more than plucking prospects from other places and sending them to those schools.
Both of those black administrators work at the game’s coalface, where things actually have to get done, often under the unfair gaze of embittered, obstructionist whites, and not in CSA’s weird bubble of unreality.
For instance, the reporter who wrote the Mumbai Mirror story was confronted by CSA — who were out of order to do so — and told he had misquoted his source.
All because Albert Morkel visited the suite housing the Indian players’ partners during the second test in Centurion in search of biryani.
That he was duly given along with the ear of an observer from a country that has its own struggles with identity politics but hasn’t a clue how South Africa functions. Or dysfunctions.
The truth is Morne Morkel cannot be sure about his place in the team. No-one can, but he has a right to wonder about his future in a set-up in which black players’ currency is valued highly — and which produces more black fast bowlers than any other type of black player.
The interview was not recorded. But the reporter maintains he identified himself to Albert Morkel and asked, and was given, permission to quote him.
The quotes, which the reporter stands by, are nothing South Africans wouldn’t have heard if they are the right colour — white — and around the right braai at the right time of the right kind of evening.
And here we are, in the throes of Biryanigate. Are we surprised?
Of course not.