If Loots Bosman's skin wasn't a golden brown colour, his appearance in the
middle on Thursday afternoon would not have raised any eyebrows. Had it
been Neil McKenzie or Jacques Rudolph walking out to replace Boeta
Dippenaar, there would have been no talk of quotas or targets.
Those who whisper from the shadows about discrimination and hidden agendas
usually have one of their own. The decision to jettison Dippenaar, who had
struggled 57 balls for 16 runs spread over three innings, made perfect
cricketing sense, especially with the Australian behemoth lying in wait on
Sunday - should South Africa see off the challenge posed by Brian Lara and
Unfortunately, an eminently sensible cricketing decision, vindicated by
Bosman playing some fine shots in his 39 on what was hardly a batting
paradise, will now be hijacked by what can best be called the Kevin
Pietersen brigade. A few days ago, Pietersen was quoted in a feature on
the BBC cricket website, talking of a friend "who is a better player than
Not surprisingly, Grant Rowley is white, and hasn't played for the
Dolphins since 2004. "At the end of 2003/4, I should have been given a
contract, it's as simple as that," he told BBC Sport. "I was passed over
while guys who averaged mid-20s were given contracts." In a society
aspiring to make right the wrongs of the past, and one where even cricket
teams have targets when it comes to previously disadvantaged communities,
you can only feel sorry for men like Rowley, who end up paying the price
for the sins of their ancestors.
Yet, at the same time, it beggars belief that so little is written or said
about those players of colour who missed out in the dark days of
Apartheid. Thanks to England, the world got more than a glimpse of Basil
D'Oliveira's talent. But how many more were there like him? As a cricket
journalist, it shames me to admit that I'm barely aware of any of the
great coloured cricketers of that era. When we talk of the
what-might-have-been generation of South African cricket, the names
mentioned are almost always the same - Graeme Pollock, Mike Proctor, Barry
Richards, Denis Lindsay, Eddie Barlow, Clive Rice and Vincent van der
Bijl. Not a coloured face among them.
When you look at Makhaya Ntini run in with such elegance and power, you
wonder who his predecessors were. When you see Herschelle Gibbs bat with
unfettered abandon, as in that epic 175 against Australia, you wonder how
many more there were like him whose talent was confined to the Cape Flats.
For every Grant Rowley, there were dozens with darker skin that weren't
even allowed near a cricket stadium in the old days. In a perfect world,
Rowley wouldn't meet the same fate as those men. Unfortunately, we don't
live in one.