South Africa's transformation policy June 18, 2008

An awkward step in the right direction

The abolition of the presidential 'veto' of national team selection is an enormous step in the right direction for South African cricket as it strives towards 'normalisation' yet, as important as it is, it comes shackled to a couple of backward steps, as

Norman Arendse: relieved of the power of veto © Getty Images
The abolition of the presidential "veto" of national team selection is an enormous step in the right direction for South African cricket as it strives towards "normalisation" yet, as important as it is, it comes shackled to a couple of backward steps, as so often happens.

Current president Norman Arendse's misuse and even abuse of the power of veto has led to its abolition but the hand-wringing anxiety of the more political administrators to have a demographically representative national team has simply led them to meddle elsewhere.

Amongst the 12 recommendations made by Cricket South Africa's transformation review committee, tucked away at No.7 on the list, is the following: "In order to promote the principles of CSA's transformation policy, the selection panel should include black Africans."

South Africans are, perhaps, more used to career decisions being taken and made on the basis of race than any other nation on earth but, nonetheless, it still looks and feels mighty shabby to reserve a seat on the national selection panel for a "black African".

Does the absence of a black African mean that the white, Indian and Coloured selectors are all naturally predisposed to selecting only players of their own creed? Would a black selector be duty-bound to push only for the inclusion of black players?

Nobody, of course, will define exactly what constitutes a "black African" because South Africa's constitution theoretically protects us from bias and prejudice. As every visitor to South Africa knows, the population is - broadly speaking - divided into Black, Coloured, Indian and White. But the boundaries are blurred and it's only a matter of time before somebody is accused of not being black "enough" to be appointed to the "black" seat on the selection panel.

It happened all the time under apartheid - except back then the issue was not being white enough.

The intention, however, is decent and honourable. The fact that "black" player representation at international level has still to extend past a tiny number of players (Makhaya Ntini, Mfuneko Ngam, Loots Bosman, Thami Tsolekile and Thandi Tshabalala) is a source of deep concern, even embarrassment.

Artificial manipulation of selection with racial quotas has shown itself to work (albeit with some dreadfully sad casualties) at youth level but to attempt to do so at senior international level has routinely led to disaster. To attempt to do so at selection level, where international playing experience is desirable and an extended first-class career is vital, could be hideous.

To the rest of the cricket playing world South Africa's policy of righting the wrongs of the past may seem awkward and unnatural, but that's mostly because apartheid was wrong and unnatural. Nobody ever said there would be an easy solution but at least a solution is being sought.

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Estelle on June 20, 2008, 7:52 GMT

    A good thing. Abolishing the veto right. Not only in cricket, but it should be in all sports. . We all know that power corrupts...and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A presidential veto is a bit too much power in the hands of 1. No matter what the skin color of that 1 is.

  • David on June 19, 2008, 20:02 GMT

    All well and good.

    If your football league consists of ten teams and one of those teams must have a certain percentage of it's players made up of one-legged players then it's not terribly difficult to see which is going to be relegated at the end of the season.

    If all ten teams have to play under the same restrictions, as happens in the domestic competitions in South Africa, then there isn't too much of a problem (although, as Niel Manthorpe says, there might be some pretty unfortunate casualties).

    However, I cannot see England, Australia, India et al being forced to pick any other than the best players for their sides, while South Africa is forced to compile their players from a politically expedient pool.

    England must be besides themselves with glee to have an opportunity to kick the backsides of a side which clearly does not contain some of South Africa's best players.

  • Deon on June 19, 2008, 19:57 GMT

    Spare a thought for the poor white South Africans. It seems they are no longer welcome in the world of test and first class cricket. In South Africa they are not black enough. And in Englang, as Kolpak players, soon they may not be considered English enough - unless they are unusually gifted and have three lions tattooed on upper arms like KP. Do the sons bear the sins of the fathers? I suspect so.

  • Deon on June 19, 2008, 19:35 GMT

    The thing with quotas is it perpetuates the old way of thinking along colour lines. If quotas persist we will still be talking about black players and white players ten years from now. How this is suppose to encourage racial harmony and social transformation I do not know. Let's bury the hatchet it pick the best eleven.

  • Ricky on June 19, 2008, 18:30 GMT

    I'm all for transformation, but why at international level, ideally transformation at school should be the best option and if not, maybe at provincial level, but doing it at international level is just not on. Many talented young black or coloured players are picked too early, because of this, they are thrown into the deep end and are not good enough in the early stages of their careers. They then sometimes never recover and are lost because wrong decisions from the men at the top. Justin Ontong is a prime example of this, he was a talented young batsmen but far from ready for international cricket 4 years ago, but the selectors disregarded this and threw him in the deep end. He struggled and took very long to recover from that early setback. Now i think he is ready for international cricket, but he could have been much earlier if it hadnt been for incorrect desicions earlier.

  • Ashwin on June 19, 2008, 16:19 GMT

    The quota system is flawed, good players like KP, Ryan ten Doeschate, Strauss and many more are lost to Europe. Another problem is that due to the entire quota system some of the players feel like this isn't they way they should be here - not on talent but on color. Some of them also feel that there should be something else. But the bad thing is of a country around 92% black there is only one black regular member of the squad. this is a worry - look at zimbabwe, their team is virtually all black with a few whites reflecting on the real demographics of the country and that is what South African cricket team must do.

  • Luc on June 19, 2008, 14:50 GMT

    I really feel administrators are getting this all wrong. by trying to change things from the wrong end. I am all for transformation, but the goal of the professional teams in South Africa hast be to field the best eleven players possible. We have come very far from the Apartheid days, where a play will not be overlooked because of his color, only his skill. Money should be and I'm sure is being poured into cultivating cricket in black communities at grass routes level. Things will not change overnight, it will take many years.

    But one thing nobody seems to be talking about is that cricket just isn't a black persons first choice of sport. Football is by far the biggest sport in South Africa, and there is no needs for quotas there, as the youth all want to be soccer players, there is more money and more opportunities there for them, so good luck to them.

    But by trying to get all children into cricket at an early age, is always gonna be a better plan than forcing it at a top level!

  • krishna on June 19, 2008, 13:13 GMT

    Affects of apartheid were long lasting on their local population. Hope the crusaders understand it first before trying to overcome that. Also hope they field their best 11. Let it be 11 white men or 11 black men or 11 men of Japanese origin. South Africa never won a world cup, its time to do it with their best team!

  • Kevin on June 19, 2008, 11:23 GMT

    To the rest of the cricket playing world South Africa's policy of righting the wrongs of the past may seem awkward and unnatural, but that's mostly because apartheid was wrong and unnatural.

    Using the same policies used during apartheid can never be right. Using skin color as a determining factor is wrong. I would love anyone to explain to me how racism as a principle can be right sometimes and wrong others?!?!

    And why should the cricket team reflect the demographic of the country??? The targets they have are flawed. They should be striving to get to a point when they can pick a South African team on ability only. But their aim is to see 80% black faces. That is pure racism. Dress it up anyway you like but that is racism. If the argument is, that if all things had been equal then South Africa would have a demographic team, then I beg to differ. Look at the NBA in America (just one example of many). 10% black in the country, 90% black in the NBA.

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