Recently-retired Proteas batsman JP Duminy says the honour of representing the national team was spoiled by the “eye-opening” division he saw within the squad when he was first selected for South Africa in 2004.
“That 2004 tour of Sri Lanka was quite an eye-opener. The team was so fragmented, all in different groupings,” Duminy said during a recent Ahmed Kathrada Foundation webinar on racism in cricket.
“I needed to find my comfort zone because I was very fortunate in my upbringing that I never really experienced apartheid. My family shielded me, so I came into the national team all excited and wanting to engage, but the tour did not go well and I was left out for a while.
“We had no idea what it meant to come together and represent something bigger than ourselves. We all just gravitated to our own cultural groups.
“Outside the game, we were certainly segregated. I wanted to explore new relationships, asking people: ‘Can I go out to dinner with you?’
“You need your teammates to be successful and it was only in 2010 that we took cognisance of that.”
Duminy, who admitted he had benefited from domestic quotas which had been implemented to drive transformation, graduated to top-class Proteas batsman on the 2008/09 tour of Australia.
Though he probably did not fulfill his true potential in Test cricket, he went on to become one of South Africa’s best and most enduring white-ball cricketers.
Duminy nonetheless felt he had experienced the marginalisation of black players, revealing he had witnessed teammates being referred to by racial slurs.
“I have seen things happen. Not necessarily to me, but I have been on the field when others have been emotionally abused in how they were spoken to,” Duminy recalled.
“An example was batting with Ashwell Prince in a provincial game and he received harsh words, including the K-word. But the type of character he is, it just fuelled him to show them what he can do.
“Why I did not speak up is an important reflection for me and it’s probably because I was in a fortunate position. I was benefiting, and I need to take responsibility for that.”
The elegant left-hander now hoped to nurture grassroots talent through his JP21 Foundation, and he believed transformation needed to move away from merely ticking boxes.
While Cricket SA had achieved 70% of its self-set barometer targets, government warned on Wednesday the federation faced potential penalties (along with Athletics SA and Swimming SA) after failing to reach its overall transformation target set by the EPG due to a poor representation of black players, officials and administrators.
Duminy felt a different approach was required.
“Transformation has become a humungous topic but do we really understand what it means? A tick-box scenario means the game is not going to transform,” Duminy said.
“That’s an external focus and it needs to be internal. Hearts need to transform.
“Transformation represents opportunity, not just a name on a sheet of paper, which unfortunately has been the government approach.”