Cricket South Africa has confirmed a decision to introduce targets for all national teams for selection of players of colour. The specifics of the new policy, which will stipulate how many players of colour need to be included in starting XIs, have yet to be revealed, but are likely to fall in line with the requirements of the South African sports ministry, with whom CSA have signed a memorandum of understanding.
"In the past, we had never set targets in our national teams, but with changing circumstances, we feel it is essential to move with the times," Chris Nenzani, the CSA president, said. "The precise targets will depend on work to be undertaken by relevant committees to determine what is realistic and sustainable. This will be announced in due course. We will aim to achieve our targets over the course of the year and not on a match-by-match basis."
In April this year, CSA, along with three other national federations, was banned by the ministry from bidding for or hosting international tournaments after failing to meet transformation requirements. The ministry used 60% as the barometer for their measurements, which equates to seven players of colour in a team. Cricket fell short by 5%. The ministry also had a separate measurement for the number of black African players in a team, but did not provide a percentage.
CSA has previously worked with what it termed a "guideline," on transformation, which required the consideration of at least four players of colour when picking the national men's team. Although CSA insisted the target did not have to be strictly applied, the board rarely transgressed it and reaffirmed that policy after the 2015 World Cup semi-final. In that match, Vernon Philander, who had spent a significant part of the tournament injured, was selected ahead of an in-form Kyle Abbott, after the coach, captain and convener of selectors met with the CEO to consult on matters of transformation. An internal investigation was conducted to review the semi-final selection which confirmed the guidelines.
In the immediate aftermath of that tournament, CSA increased domestic targets for the 2016-17 season. Franchise and provincial teams were required to field six players of colour, including at least three black Africans, up from five players of colour with at least two black Africans the season before. The players' union was not consulted about the change and mulled taking legal action before reaching an agreement.
The following month, CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat advocated aggressive transformation , and since then, team selection has pointed in that direction. South Africa have fielded at least one black African player in the XI more often than ever before, with Kagiso Rabada most commonly in that position, although Temba Bavuma, Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie have also featured. On their most recent outing, the ODI triangular series in West Indies, South Africa's 15-man squad contained a majority (eight) players of colour, and in their victory over Australia in that tournament on June 7, South Africa fielded a record eight players of colour.
Still, their overall numbers were not enough to meet the ministry's requirements of seven players of colour per match. South Africa's stats in the tri-series read: 6, 8, 7, 7, 6, 6, which may have promoted this new commitment to achieving targets in the next year. Although South Africa are not due to host any major tournaments until the 2023 Under-19 World Cup, there is talk of a World T20 being held in 2018, and they are being seen as frontrunners to host it. In order to have the ban lifted before that, CSA would need to have the right numbers by the time the ministry conducts its next audit in April 2017, which effectively gives the board the 2016-17 season to work with.
In that time, the team will play 11 Tests, including home series against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and away games in Australia and New Zealand, but they do not have any major limited-overs tournament. They will play ODIs against Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in preparation for the 2017 Champions Trophy, and a smattering of T20s. Player reaction to the targets has yet to be ascertained.