CSA likely to introduce quota for black African players
On the same day South Africa's domestic season gets underway, CSA will vote on a proposal which could change the way it looks. At their October 11 meeting, a decision will be taken on introducing a quota which will require franchise teams to play two black African players and provincial teams to field three. A senior official expects the motion to be approved.
The idea was one of many which came up at CSA's transformation indaba (conference) - the first one addressing racial issues they held in a decade. ESPNcricinfo has learned it was overwhelmingly welcomed at the meeting in the face of South Africa's poor record of Africanisation in the 22 years post readmission.
"Everybody agreed that we have failed in terms of black African players and that drastic measures must be taken," Norman Arendse, CSA's lead independent director who is also chair of the transformation committee, told ESPNcricinfo.
Since 1991, only five black African players have represented South Africa at Test level even though black Africans comprise almost 80% of the country's population. Makhaya Ntini is the only one who has played more than 100 Tests, with his number of caps coming in at 101, while Mfuneko Ngam, Thami Tsolekile, Monde Zondeki and Lonwabo Tsotsobe have appeared in 17 matches all told.
By contrast, 11 mixed-race players have donned the whites and three of Asian origin, including Pakistani-born legspinner Imran Tahir. Arendse said those cricketers, including the likes of Vernon Philander and Hashim Amla, illustrate the success of targets.
South Africa introduced a quota system in 1998 to address the racial discrimination caused by the Apartheid system. The stipulation then was that every team had to field four players of colour - a term which encompasses black Africans, mixed-race people and those of Asian descent. It was officially removed in 2007.
While Arendse hailed its achievements, he also explained that it shed light on the true nature of racial segregation in South Africa. "It showed us the stark disparity caused by Apartheid and how the black African community often had it a lot worse," he said.
"There are two obvious reasons why we don't see as many black African players coming through. One is the socio-economic conditions facing black African youngsters compared to their counterparts, especially as cricket is still very much a middle-class game. And the other is downright racism. There is enough black African talent but it seems to get lost."
A recent report presented to CSA contained information that most black African players give up the game between the under-19 and provincial level, at an age at which, if they are not contracted, will need to find jobs. Arendse's other point was also underlined in the report as it revealed when black African players do get into the system, they are often further sidelined. Only two black African players turned out in more than 80% of their franchises' games last season and when they did, they bowled less overs and batted lower down than players of other races.
CSA is hopeful this will change if the proposal is approved next Friday, the same day the domestic one-day cup gets underway. Although the ruling, if passed, will not apply for the first round of matches, it could be implemented immediately thereafter and may raise concerns about the practicality of such a decision for franchises.
In reality, all franchises except the Cobras would be able to meet the requirement immediately. The Cobras only have one black African on their books, left-arm spinner Siya Simetu. The Dolphins and Knights have each contracted two black African players, the Titans three, the Warriors four and the Lions have the most, at seven.
Sources close to the franchise system said the possibility of some franchises loaning out their black African players to other teams in order to meet the quota also exists. "Sometimes a player won't get game time at his franchise because there will be too much competition for places," the insider said. "It's important that we ensure the players get adequate game time so there would be nothing wrong in them being sent to play for other teams."
That may defeat the purpose of unearthing and nurturing black talent and Arendse seems hopeful that will not happen. "What we need is for franchises to have four or six black African players in their set-up so that there is internal competition for places. One of the criticisms of the quota system is that it guarantees a player a place in the team but if there are more than the required number, you will be able to counter that," he said. "What we've also seen is that before long, the minimum is far exceeded and that is what we need to build a base."
The lack of black African players has stood out most starkly in the Test team, which has not fielded a black African since January 2011. Arendse said the national selectors mentioned they get criticised for not picking black African players but their hands are tied because "they only have a handful to choose from". So CSA has taken it on themselves to "broaden the pool of black African players".
Cricket is not the only sport to be mulling quotas as a means to advance the cause of players of colour. In August, SA Rugby announced they would introduce a quota from next season which will require teams in the Vodacom Cup, the second-tier domestic tournament, to have seven players of colour in their 22-man squad and field at least five in the starting XV.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent