South Africa news January 10, 2014

Mzaidume - A migrant with a difference

Fast bowler Siphe Mzaidume is an exception among South African migrants - he is black African. He qualifies for England in June and he hopes he will get the opportunities he was denied, despite the quota system

This is not a new story. It is about a cricketer, frustrated with what he terms 'lack of opportunity' in his home country. He sets up house abroad in the hope of making it elsewhere.

The country of origin is South Africa. The cricketer could be anyone from Kevin Pietersen, who blamed the quota system and not his own skills as an average offspinner at the time for his lack of success here, to Neil Wagner, who accepted he was struggling to force his way into a strong franchise team which included the likes of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and the Morkel brothers and went to New Zealand, where he admitted the barriers to entry were lower. These players have one thing in common: they are all white. Until now.

Meet Siphe Mzaidume. The 24-year old quick from the coastal town of Port Alfred in South Africa's Eastern Cape, will qualify to play for England this June. He left this country for the same reasons as Pietersen and Wagner. But he is a black African and that makes this story quite different.

"The system in South Africa looks like it favours black players, but it does not," Mzaidume said. "People in high places say they are looking out for black players but they are not. Black players do not get the breaks they deserve. It would be great to be judged simply on your skills, which is what happens in England."

There's great irony in that statement. The merit argument is exactly why Pietersen said he turned his back on South Africa. He felt white players were being marginalised and players of colour unfairly fast-tracked. Mzaidume claims the opposite is true and that black African players are being deliberately overlooked because those in positions of power do not show any faith in them.

I was told that I was not good enough to be a professional player but I believed I was good enough. I didn't want to give up on my cricket career. When all you know is cricket, it's devastating to be told cricket is not your path

So the question really is, is Mzaidume good enough? Until 2009, he thought he had what it took to make it in South Africa. He played provincial cricket for Eastern Province at Under-13, 15 and 17 level before moving up coast to play for Border in East London at U-19 level. He was part of South Africa's 2007 U-19 training squad, which he described as a "fantastic experience," and spent two years at the Border academy.

Then, his progress stalled. "Unfortunately, I wasn't afforded the opportunities to progress further than that. I was told that I was not good enough to be a professional player but I believed I was good enough," he said. "I didn't want to give up on my cricket career. When all you know is cricket, it's devastating to be told cricket is not your path."

Along with Ayabulela Gqamane , Mzaidume went to England to try his luck there. "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with. I struggled with the weather, to relate to the English guys, and I struggled with the culture," Mzaidume said. "But my dream was bigger than those problems. I went door-to-door to all the clubs in London looking for a trial. It was hard."

The pair did not travel together and Gqamane eventually returned to South Africa. Last season, he was contracted to the Warriors franchise and has since played for the South Africa A squad as well. "He was very fortunate and one of the few," Mzaidume said. "He can tell the opposite story from mine, so credit to him."

But Mzaidume stayed in the UK and finally got a break thanks to an unexpected source. He contacted Pietersen for tips. "He was one of my links. I wanted advice from KP as to how to go about this move," Mzaidume told South African talk radio station PowerFM. "He obviously left because of the quota system. It's quite ironic that it would probably have been easier for me to get into the system but I am leaving for a similar reason KP left."

His first gig was in the Northamptonshire premier league where he played for Wollastan in 2010. He then moved to Southern Oxfordshire and was also picked in the Northamptonshire second XI. In September 2011, he joined the county on a pre-season tour to... you guessed it... South Africa's Eastern Cape.

At the time, Mzaidume told journalist Peter Martin he had taken 27 wickets in the previous season at 15.30. Martin asked him if he would return to South Africa that summer but Mzaidume said he felt "my cricket future will be in England," and that he intended to, "spend as much time as possible in England as I am applying to get a British passport."

Mzaidume preferred the structures in England, because he felt they valued him. "Everything was just judged on performance which made it easy for me to progress through the ranks," he said. He went on to play for Holmesdale and spends off-seasons at clubs in Australia.

In November 2012, he took 9 for 47 for East Malvern Tooronga Cricket Club in Melbourne. The club's president, John Gilbert, said no-one could remember such a successful return in "more than 90 years of cricket played in Stonnington." Currently, Mzaidyme is playing for Horsham Cricket Association, also in Melbourne, and was part of a training session with the England squad during the recent Ashes.

Ultimately, its Mzaidume's goal to spend more than just one practice with them but he recognises he has a lot of work to do before that can happen. "I don't for one moment think I am going to walk into the England squad. I know I have a long way to go before that happens. But for me to be in a position to be picked for England is a dream for me," he said.

While he concentrates on his cricket , he has managed to pick up big-name sponsors such as Oakley, Blackberry and Adidas and also works as a brand ambassador. "I've pretty much got two careers which is quite hectic," he said. But he stresses it's better than having none at all.

While Greg Hayes, the development officer who discovered Makhaya Ntini, is "flummoxed to hear there are no opportunities for black guys," because "if you are good enough, there are plenty of opportunities." Mzaidume is adamant that the system is failing black African players. "I do feel let down by the system but the best way to try and fill that void is to make guys aware that the world is a big place - it's not the end of your dream," he said.

It's a foregone conclusion then that like Pietersen, Mzaidume will not consider returning to South Africa. "Never. I'd never come back. England has given me everything I have and I need to give something back."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 16, 2014, 23:33 GMT

    South africa is still wasting their talent by quota system .That is why they could not win a big event (besides 1998 mini icc w.cup ,Because HANSIE was a great man .he had never cared about colour method ) this is sports ministry's duty and captain / selectors must think positively towards his country' dreams and aims.But smith never showed this kind of understading and honesty .IF THE BRITISH CAN GIVE EQUALITY TO ALL ,WHY NOT SA ITSELF.....sssssssssssssshm You still have time to give the chance to polish the talent : black /white , around ( under 20 -23 yrs ) good luck

  • Harjinder on January 13, 2014, 23:03 GMT

    SA cricket board and sports ministry should control this kind of issues . Because Quotta system is destroying their talent continuously . So ,good talented guys must be given right chances.......good luck

  • Riaan on January 12, 2014, 13:19 GMT

    I think the problem with this guy is attitude. He stated that he played in all the age group teams.In South Africa though there is a system where a substantial percentage of the players has to be of colour. Then all of a sudden you come to the senior side and now you have to make the team on merit.

    All of a sudden you have to compete with professionals who've been playing for years on that level. Now you have to work hard and impress the coaches and then maybe you may get a chance to play. He obviously wasn't prepared to do that.

    He stated that he wasn't afforded the opportunities to progress further than that a. He had a lot of opportunities in the age group levels. If he was decent he would have got a contact, but he wasn't good enough and told so by the coaches. Now he's blaming the very system that was designed to give players of colour an opportunity. There's probably hundreds of better bowlers playing amateur cricket in South Africa who didn't get the same opportunities he got

  • Dummy4 on January 12, 2014, 9:12 GMT

    Peter Martin has been quoted in this story and yet his comment - which I believe sheds great insight on this article - has been removed. Why?

  • Simon on January 12, 2014, 2:44 GMT

    You start this piece with "This is not a new story.", but it seems to me this is barely a story at all. At 25, having never played second-XI cricket in either country and with no genuine prospect of ever doing so, surely he is simply not good enough. I don't think his story provides any insight whatsoever into the quota system.

  • A on January 11, 2014, 13:19 GMT

    I have played against this guy the last couple of seasons and I can honestly say he is very average. On a good day he tops 125kph max and playing kent div 3 last year got garbage wickets bowling all over the shop. A lot of them were more the batsmen getting themselves out which happens a lot in that league. I don't know a great deal about the politics in SA cricket but I can't see this guy being in a realistic position to say anything. The honest truth is that he's not good enough and deluded. Play for England!!! That is a ridiculous ambition, he should set him goals on getting a go at county 2s but the bowler I've seen isn't good enough for that.

  • Corie on January 11, 2014, 12:22 GMT

    This lad wasn't good enough to play first team cricket in Ireland. Having made false claims about his credentials was dropped from the first team and asked to leave after 3 matches for Phoenix Cc having been brough in as the club pro. Alarm bells should have rang when he got his first bowl in Ireland. He took his jumper off and left in at mid on!!! Playing the race card is just pathetic . This guy is a very average club cricketer at best.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2014, 11:29 GMT

    About 14 months ago Mzaidume (who has never played first-class cricket, remember), told one of my journalist colleagues in the Eastern Cape that if Andrew Hudson - the SA national selection convenor - came to him and begged him to play in one of the Tests against New Zealand, who were touring SA at the time, he would have to turn the offer down! I thought that was rather arrogant of him and he continues to badmouth SA's policies. Meantime Cricket SA are doing their best to incorporate more black and coloured players into the franchise and provincial teams and some good players are coming through eg Beuren Hendricks of the Cobras. Watch this youngster, he's a special talent. The opportunities are there for those good enough. Time will tell as far as Siphe is concerned. But he needs to get a County contract and prove himself at f-c level in England.

  • Etienne on January 11, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    @Thom. Yes he's barely 120km/h.

    A little research shows that after playing for Wollaston, not Wollastan, in 2011 he played only 3 games for Phoenix in the Irish League in 2012. From there he 'progressed' to Holmesdale where he has been playing for the last 2 seasons. That's in the Kent 3rd Div, yes, 3rd Div. He took 24 wickets in 24 games for Wollaston at 30.63 with a SR of 41.88. Not to shabby but also nothing to get excited about.

    His figures for Holmesdale in the 3rd Div is quite impressive but obviously not good enough to impress anyone in a higher league. Over the 2 seasons he's taken 84 wickets at an average of 15.45, SR 26.17, Economy rate 3.54. Looking at the SR and ER it would appear that he bowls many wicket taking balls interspersed with a lot of loose balls.

    I feel sorry for this man. The quota system led him to believe that he is much better than he really is. Bit weird complaining about opportunities in SA when he's playing in a lower league in Eng than he did in SA.

  • Great on January 11, 2014, 6:05 GMT

    Well if he doesn't go back to SA now, he isn't being very smart. The new quota system is very pro-black at the expense of other players of colour. Most non-Franchise provinces are desperate for 'black' players

    And I'm not sure why he would go and play club cricket in Melbourne rather than 3 day first class cricket in SA. That doesn't appear to be a good decision - or perhaps he just isn't very good.

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