The centre has not held. South African cricket now operates only in black and white.
On the one side is a privileged minority, built on colonial and then apartheid, rule, with access to the best facilities and most of the financial resources in the country. On the other is the historically oppressed majority, legally squeezed into the margins of society until 26 years ago, and still suffering the legacy of that centuries-old oppression.
These two groups cross paths in places like the classroom, the boardroom or on the sports field, where they are expected to meet as equals. But the past means their playing field is anything but level and the perpetuation of their differences continues. Now we are confronting the depths of that division.
In the last two months, the Black Lives Matter movement has collided with South African cricket and torn it apart. What started as a confident but hardly controversial answer at a press event from Lungi Ngidi has snowballed into a saga onto which complicated layers of the past are being compacted. Our airwaves have heard stories of discontent from Omar Henry, when he wanted to return home from the 1992 World Cup, from Makhaya Ntini, from Ashwell Prince, and from Thami Tsolekile, who was due to succeed Mark Boucher in 2012 but finished his career in 2016 with a 12-year ban for his role in contriving to fix matches.
These are stories that have made people squirm and told them of the experience of being othered - the experience of the majority of South Africans in spaces previously reserved for a mostly white elite. And it is reflected in the numbers.
Despite South Africa having a majority black population, of the 335 caps South Africa have handed out across all formats since 1991, more than two-thirds (225) have been to white players and just over 10% (38) to black African players. Coloured players make 16% (54) of the total and Indian-heritage players a little over 5% (18).
These percentages ask questions about the speed at which South Africa returned to international cricket - before the country had even had its first democratic elections - and the lack of progress since. The former administrators of colour who once asked that South Africa only field a national team once some of the resources had been redistributed now appear to have had a point, but it's too late for that. Those percentages also speak to the simple structural inequalities, such as that of apartheid geography, which placed the best schools and the best sporting facilities in white areas, leaving aspiring cricketers of colour with the challenge and the cost of transporting themselves to be educated and to train.
Some of them, such as Kagiso Rabada, whose parents quickly became part of the middle class, had the means to go toe-to-toe with the haves. Others, like Ntini and Andile Phehlukwayo, were given scholarships to a top school, removing them from their immediate surroundings and setting them on a path to success. For most others - too many to name - the cycle of poverty continues and they remain have-nots.
We have had several attempts to advance transformation with mixed results. At grassroots, Cricket South Africa (along with biscuit company Bakers and now KFC) have poured millions into mini-cricket projects. JP Duminy is listed among their success stories. At school level there are sporting bursaries aimed at providing young people of colour with as much opportunity to access quality coaching and facilities as possible. Ngidi is one such recipient. In the professional set-up, there are targets for franchise teams and the national side to strive for, in terms of playing players of colour and black Africans, which has benefited players like Hashim Amla and Rabada. Those four names alone speak to the importance of advancing the cause of the previously marginalised, but they are four who made it to the highest level. What about the others?
Some like Monde Zondeki and Garnett Kruger have revealed what they believe are historical systemic issues, and others like Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie have discussed more recent events that they claim show that very little has changed.
Zondeki told the radio station SAFM that he once interpreted a conversation with a coach to mean that there was only space for one of him or Ntini in the team, and that he would only be able to hold down a permanent place once Ntini had retired. As it turned out, Ntini played in five of the six Tests Zondeki played before injury ended his career. Kruger spoke on SABC news about not playing in Australia in 2008-09 where he said he "did not feel like it was a welcoming environment within the team", and blamed Graeme Smith and Boucher for sidelining him. Tsolekile made a similar accusation about Smith and Boucher, who he said along with AB de Villiers, prevented him from playing in 2012. Herschelle Gibbs, in his 2010 autobiography, To the Point, was the first to call out a Smith-Boucher-Jacques Kallis-de Villiers clique that he claimed controlled South African cricket. Prince has tweeted several threads about the issue, most recently saying he perceived a "resentment" from Smith towards him.
All that is important because of the positions Smith and Boucher hold today. Smith, as CSA's director of cricket, is essentially the country's most important cricket man and he has been in the thick of it. He has faced questions over his commitment to transformation from his first few weeks in the job. But he has spoken in support of the BLM movement and said he wants to "ensure that young black African players are given the opportunity that they deserve to reach the highest levels in all areas of the game". He has defended himself against the allegations from Tsolekile and reiterated his desire to be part of the solution. He's also said he was "unaware of" and "surprised" by the stories Ntini had told, even if might be difficult to believe any white South African can claim to be unaware of what was going on. Smith speaks as someone who is privileged; privileged enough not to have had to think about being the other in a professional team. More recently he said he understood those who felt frustrated by lack of opportunity, and argued the instances could be broken into two categories: "racial discrimination and the nature of competitive sport".
Boucher has not made any public comments on the issue yet, which is strange, because he is in charge of the men's national team with its varying backgrounds and lived experiences. He has come under fire from former players and administrators, including Prince and former national selector Hussein Manack, for getting a four-year contract in the top coaching job in the country, despite not having a Level 4 qualification. The implication is that it is his friendship with Smith that has got him the job. Boucher's five trophies in three seasons with the Titans is compared with the three trophies in one season Enoch Nkwe swept in his maiden summer as a franchise coach, even though Boucher has been a franchise coach for longer. Still, the likes of Manack and Prince - himself a franchise coach - have asked why Nkwe is Boucher's deputy?
Neither Smith nor Boucher can be held responsible for the issue raised by Phangiso, who was the only black African player in the 2015 World Cup squad and the only one who did not play a game. Or Leie, who played two T20s in 2015 and hasn't been considered since. Both said they felt as though they were making up numbers without ever being given a proper run. Phangiso was part of a group of black players who wrote a letter to CSA in late 2015, after Khaya Zondo, a black batsman, was taken on a tour of India and did not play a game. That incident has come to light again, this time with the allegation that de Villiers blocked Zondo's selection. de Villiers denied that he did but admitted he wanted David Miller in the team instead because the series was on the line and experience was needed. de Villiers called it a "cricketing" decision. The trouble is in the wording.
When selection decisions are made about players of colour, it's about transformation. When selection decision are made about white players, it's about cricket. The insinuation that players of colour cannot be the subject of strategic selections is the same as the one that asks if transformation has to come at the expense of winning. It assumes that excellence and representation are mutually exclusive, which the national rugby team, the Springboks, as one example, have proved is not the case.
It is the Springboks who so contributed to the image of South Africa as a rainbow nation bonded by sport when they won the World Cup in 1995. They gave South Africa relevance again when they won the trophy again in 2007, and then reignited national pride with a record-equalling third World Cup win in 2019. Their victory last year was their most unifying, because it came under a black African captain and a white Afrikaans coach, who transformed a group of individuals into a team. Cricket must have looked at rugby, long considered the more racially divided of the two sports, and wondered how to emulate it.
Still, post-BLM, even the Springboks' glory has been tarnished. Last weekend a picture emerged of the South African contingent of the Manchester pro rugby union club Sale Sharks (and Samoan-born English player Manu Tuilagi, who cited religious reasons) standing while their team-mates took a knee ahead of a fixture. Among those who stood were World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager, who lifted the trophy under the leadership of Siya Kolisi in Japan last year. Their (non) actions have underlined another aspect of the debate: do sportspeople have to take a knee to be antiracist, or is wearing a T-shirt enough? Can you be antiracist without joining the BLM movement? And if you are not actively antiracist, are you then the opposite?
These are questions that cricket and society are answering in binary terms. Every time a player of colour is quoted in the media talking about their experience of discrimination, the response is outrage and an attack on the establishment. The popular narrative is that Smith and Boucher must go, and even if there may be valid reasons for that, no alternatives are being offered. For now, there is only anger, as Prince referred to in a recent Twitter thread, even if it is not always being directed at the right people for the right reasons. Yet the hurt is understandable. Such deep wounds cannot be overhauled in a generation. But then, what can be done?
CSA's newly formed social justice and nation-building committee, which met with 40 former players in July, is an attempt to begin a process of consultation that starts with listening to grievances and may include financial reparations in the future. Even so, it has been criticised because its first meeting excluded Smith, who was initially invited but then asked to sit out by the CSA board, and who has since said he would like to take part. The current crop of players, from whom we have heard little about this issue, are headed to a culture camp this week to discuss team identity. Although not all of them are of the "born free" generation, who were born post-1994, they are, in theory, the most representative group of South African cricketers to date. And so they should be laying the foundations on which South African cricket will operate in future; foundations that should include a middle ground.
What that may look like needs to be determined. There is talk of a sporting Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which stories are told and grievances thrashed out, guilt and forgiveness offered and received. That may work, if it also allows nuances to come through in which white players acknowledge their privilege and players of colour are willing to interrogate reasons, such as circumstance, beyond merely blatant discrimination for their experiences, and everyone reaches a place where they can talk to each other, instead of shout.