Little is black and white about cricket’s transformation troubles

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

YOU could smell the outrage beyond the social media boundary when Fikile Mbalula banned Cricket SA (CSA) from bidding to host major events because their transformation scorecard didn’t add up.

Jacques Kallis pronounced himself “so sad” that he was “embarrassed to call myself South African so often these days”.

“Fantastic,” Allan Donald snorted. “Let’s sanction ourselves, shall we.”

Are they grumpy old white men unused to a reality in which what they say no longer goes and isolated in that unhappiness from the rest of us?

Or are their sentiments evidence of a lack of commitment – or even hostility – among top players to the cause of darkening the game in SA? 

In SA sport, matters are rarely that black and white.

Former SA left-arm spinner Paul Harris took aim at suits of several stripes: “I don’t think this decision was very clever or well thought through. To put a blanket ban on big events coming to SA is absolutely ridiculous.

“People understand that there has got to be transformation because of what’s happened in the past.

“But in the 25 years we’ve been out of isolation, with the amount of talent in this country, you can’t tell me we have brought through so few black African players. They have to be more guys. It’s a no-brainer.

“I get really upset when people say black guys can’t play cricket. It’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in my life. There is black talent out there. It just needs to be nurtured properly.

“Help these youngsters out, whether it’s financially, emotionally or on the technical side of the game. Put processes in place where you can help out guys who are 12, 13, 14 years old. Instead, money has been wasted in all sports in the way guys have been brought through the system.”

Warriors coach Malibongwe Maketa saw the same challenges from a different angle.

“It’s easy to say let’s have all of this (transformation) but what support do we have around the player to help them cope at the level they’re supposed to be playing at,” he said.

Far from blaming white resentment for transformation’s troubles, Maketa had high praise for his paler players.

“I can’t laud my white players enough in terms of the support they have given especially black African players,” he said.

“There’s a reason these players have come in and, yes, some of them have struggled. But in our environment they’ve never been made to feel that they’re quota players or that they don’t belong.”

For Harris, the quota system – which CSA prefers to call a target – in provincial, franchise and international cricket was a problem.

“When you put numbers to it people are going to say what happens if you don’t have that number of (black) players?”

Harris saw sevens rugby as a sound transformation model: “The (black) guys in that side have been brought through properly, they’ve got a good culture going, and they’ve spent their money wisely.”

To Maketa, rugby was a threat: “Rugby, especially in the Eastern Cape, is winning in terms of luring the guys away from cricket. We’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s difficult to compete with (rugby players) getting contracts at the age of 18.”

Maketa can expect that competition to become tougher – rugby is also under Mbalula’s transformation cosh.

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