Flat White

South African cricket: from racist to rainbow nation and back again

27 September 2016

3:34 PM

27 September 2016

3:34 PM

South Africa v England - 1st Test Day OneThe obsession with race in South Africa has clearly not ended with the demise of National Party rule in 1994.

Despite all the verbal dross to the contrary the ANC remains, after 22 years in government as obsessed as even the strongest verkrampte in the long years of nationalist (White) rule.

Cricket is a case in point.

After a generation in the wilderness, from 1970, South Africa was readmitted to international cricket with a one day match against India in November 1991 and a test match against the West Indies in April 1992.

SA were clearly the best side in the world when they were excluded from international cricket after having smashed Australia 4-0 in four Tests, following Australia’s comprehensive victory over the Indians in the sub-continent.

If racial selection was the reason for South Africa’s isolation in 1970 then there has to be grounds for South African exclusion today.

The ANC seemingly want to run a slide rule over everything to ensure their ‘white minority’s noses are perpetually rubbed in it,’ and the latest quota system proves that fact.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has determined at government urging that of the 11 players six must be black (that includes mixed race and Asians) and two of those must be African. In SA domestic cricket, at provincial level, three of the 11 must be African.

The rationale for this nonsense is ‘to make up for the grave injustices of the past,’ which means another generation of players will be judged on the colour of their skin rather than their ability.

In fact it has already happened. In 2007 Cricket World Cup squad, Loots Bosman and Roger Telemachus were selected over the much more deserving Dale Steyn and Albie Morkel, simply to make up a required quota of seven black players. In 2015 it was Vernon Philander who was preferred over the in-form Kyle Abbott.

Instead of making these disgraceful selection cases a cause célèbre the appeasers in the western media and sporting officialdom pass by on the other side, like those who preceded the Good Samaritan.

Some of us remember the media furore over the exclusion of the dignified and talented Basil D’Oliveria. Then the media , rightfully,‘ went into bat’ for ‘Dolly’ against the Vorster Government who did not want a Cape Coloured playing in the England team of 1968.

Today, there is, of course, nothing wrong in vigorously supporting a program to encourage African youth into the game as only seven of 90 players, since re-admission have come from this group (The Economist, 19/9/16).

Indeed, the nurturing program is essential to encourage African youngsters as only 4 -20 percent of black primary school pupils play the game. Cricket gear is more expensive and poor African schools do not have the financial resources to fund it, unlike soccer and rugby, sports that essentially just need a ball. This is the real challenge for CSA, not racial quotas.

However, by just giving a place to an African, at the expense of other black or white players, simply corrupts the selection process, demeans the playing worth of the African individual selected and creates team and social disharmony.

This new policy is a racially extended version of the quota regime, (1998-2007), where the national side had to field four black players minus any stipulation on the number of Africans.

Despite the political posturing of black administrators and politicians, racial quotas do not ‘cut the mustard’ with any section of the RSA populace. Some 77 percent of South Africans think quotas are wrong and that ranges from 70 per cent of Africans to 95 per cent of Asians (plus 87 per cent of Coloureds and 83 per cent of Whites also concurring), according to a survey by the SA Institute of Race Relations.

Former NZ All Blacks Rugby coach, Laurie Mains, who worked in RSA in 2000-1, said the Springboks days of being a top power were over because of their rules on ‘racial inclusion.’ In reality this is racial exclusion except in the Orwellian world of doublespeak which is the RSA.

Mains originally supported such a policy but said that was 15 years ago and that such a policy was never meant for the long haul.

Yet the ANC Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, saw fit to tell the SA rugby, cricket, athletics and netball bodies, in April, that their failure to meet transformation targets (read black privilege) meant they were forbidden to bid for or host international competition.

Jacques Kallis rightly said he was ‘embarrassed’ by the decision but international bodies should impose bans on SA for their blatant denial of selection on merit.

This after all was the blow dealt to those magnificent cricketing Springboks, particularly of the 1963-70 period, because they were an all-white side with other groups unable to be selected in that era.

The current system is just a watered down version of blatant racial preference.

Interesting too is just why the national cricket side is called the Proteas, whereas the national rugby side still is called the Springboks? But then logic and fairness has never been a strong suit of the ANC.

That is clearly shown by the disgraceful manner the 1970 side has been treated by black officials.

The players were not politicians and a true rainbow nation would honour these greats from a bygone era.

However, the reverse was the case, particularly from 2000, when the then new chief of SA cricket, Gerald Majola, also became their tormentor- in- chief. He was to cricket what Robespierre was to French political life during the revolution.

Ultimately this disgraceful ‘administrator,’ with his snout in cricket’s trough, was dismissed by CSA for failing to disclose unpaid bonuses, misuse of travel allowances and lying.

Majola hated South Africa’s ‘Invincibles’ simply because they were white.

In a classic case of reverse racism Majola made sure the SA greats were snubbed in many ways as catalogued by that fine historian, RW Johnson. These slights included:

  • ensuring privileges to ex-players and their wives were removed or reduced
  • snubbing of white players who offered their expertise as coaches
  • purging of honour boards and old photos of white cricket sides before 1992
  • players from that earlier era had their numbers taken away and basically CSA started at one in 1992, despite SA being a foundation nation of Test cricket, first playing against England in 1888 and Australia, 1902
  • waging an unsuccessful two year campaign to have South African Test matches expunged from the record books, pre 1992, instead it was he who was sent packing by Lords

When the legendary batsman Graeme Pollock remonstrated with him about unfairness, Majola upbraided the greatest ‘Bok batsman in front of some old members with the words, “you guys had your day, now get lost.” That was akin to someone in Australian cricket telling Sir Donald Bradman to get lost.

Majola, ever the puissant, followed that classless act up by renaming the SA national schools cricket week after his brother claiming he may have played for SA but for his colour and brought in racial quotas favouring blacks but using weasel words like ‘targets’ to describe them.

Incredibly, Barry Richards had, at that stage, never been invited to a South African cricket function by the new regime; and neither he nor Pollock have been honoured by having grandstands, or entry gates named after them.

Anyone, like this writer, who was privileged to see Pollock (274 runs) and Richards (140) in the second Test at the Old Kingsmead ground, in 1970, will never forget the devastation wrought on Australia by those two great Springbok batsmen in one of the great partnerships of all time.

Basil D’Oliveria was similarly snubbed by the ANC because he refused to toe the line of the post 1994 government.

How quickly the ANC forgot President Mandela’s gracious and powerful symbolic reconciliation gesture of appearing at the Rugby in a Springbok jersey and cap and shaking hands with the SA captain Francois Pienaar.

Instead, like the French Bourbons of old, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

The so-called rainbow nation is simply a myth, in reality South Africa is just another tawdry diminished, revenge nation with spiteful black racist rulers abusing the rights and traditions of the minority.

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