Clive Rice slams board December 8, 2004

South Africa's decline because of 'apartheid in reverse'

Cricinfo staff

In an interview with London's Daily Telegraph, Clive Rice, the former South African captain, has slammed the "inverted racism" he claims is threatening to turn South Africa into another Zimbabwe.

Speaking on the day England start their tour with a game at Randjesfontein, Rice said that the blame for South Africa's decline lay with the United Cricket Board (UCBSA). "It's apartheid in reverse," he explained. "White players are being driven out of our country in droves. Good luck to them. There's no future here." Rice was instrumental in persuading Nottinghamshire, his old county, to sign Kevin Pietersen, the Pietermaritzberg-born batsman who recently made his debut for England after deciding his opportunities were too limited in South Africa.

Rice was especially critical of what he claimed was an overreaction in the desire to redress the racism of the apartheid era. "The board have got it into their heads that there's a generation of black and coloured players straining at the leash to play Test cricket and that holding back whites is the only way they'll ever get a chance to shine. Wrong. Tiger Woods isn't a great golfer because he's black. It's because he's a great golfer. Nobody would welcome an influx of top-quality black cricketers more than me. We desperately need them. Unfortunately, few black South Africans regard cricket as their national game. They are more interested in football. They talk about players from Soweto but most of them have been Kenyans imported to make it look good."

Although the UCBSA claims that the quota system was jettisoned in 2002, Rice dismissed that as "absolute bullshit" and added that the bias against whites was driving them away from cricket as well as rugby. "Why do you think South Africa are slipping down the rankings? We aren't much better than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, who are, frankly, pathetic. They call it Test cricket when it's no better than a series of charity matches. The public aren't stupid. Mediocrity chases crowds away. That's why our grounds are half-empty."

And he said that the UCBSA stifled free speech in a bid to paper over the cracks. "No one in the press is allowed to criticise the regime," he told the Daily Telegraph's Tony Francis. "Television commentators have to present a sugar-coated view of South African cricket when it's crumbling before their eyes. Once Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs have retired, it's Old Mother Hubbard time."

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