The former sports minister has contributed to a misguided debate over transformation in the sport.
There is an unfortunate school of thought going around at the moment that all the changes in South African cricket are a White plot designed to crush transformation and the hopes of Black African cricketers.
I can understand why that perception exists – Ottis Gibson has been replaced as coach by Mark Boucher, Graeme Smith has been
installed as the Director of Cricket, Jacques Faul has come in as CEO in place of Thabang Moroe and old faces like Jacques Kallis and Paul Harris are back in the Proteas’ changeroom.
But the perception does not stand up to critical analysis.
Firstly, all those appointments were made by a Cricket South Africa board that comprises only two white members of the eight who remain after the stampede of resignations off the burning boat.
Secondly, it ignores the presence of Enoch Nkwe, Charl Langeveldt and Justin Ontong on the coaching staff.
Even the selection panel that has controversially dropped Temba Bavuma is 50% Black African with Linda Zondi and Nkwe choosing the teams alongside Boucher and captain Faf du Plessis.
South African cricket and it’s most important product – the Proteas – were on the verge of total collapse and emergency measures had to be taken.
Faul has been one of the most sought-after CEOs in South African sport and is the right man to clean up the mess at CSA, and in terms of inspiring the changeroom, who better to turn to than the greatest players from South Africa’s most successful era of Test cricket?
The dropping of Bavuma saddens me because he is one of my favourite cricketers, mostly due to the tremendous tenacity he always shows.
Leaving him out of the XI at Newlands makes cricketing sense if one just looks at the numbers – an average of 27.65 over his last 12
But the bald statistics don’t tell the whole story of when Bavuma scored his runs, how he was at his best when the situation was the toughest and how many crucial partnerships he shared.
But knowing how badly the new decision-makers in Proteas cricket just want to win, and also of how aware they are of trasformation necessities, I’m sure dropping Bavuma was an extremely difficult decision for them to make but one which they believe is best for the team and the player.
To say that Bavuma should be in the team regardless of how he has batted in the last year makes a mockery of transformation and
also of the highly-skilled player himself.
Bavuma is no quota player, he is a fine batsman just going through a bit of a slump.
Knowing how determined a cricketer he is, I am sure he would be appalled at any suggestion of him being selected on anything less than merit.
That we need transformation targets at all is thanks to the totally artificial selection policy we had under Apartheid in which there was a 100% white quota, which has screwed everything up for probably many more years to come.
The fact that South Africa are only playing four players of colour, just one of them a Black African, in the second Test against England shows that the system below the Proteas is not working when it comes to the injections of previously disadvantaged talent that are required.
But it is not even really the franchises that are the breeding grounds of this talent; it is at grassroots level where this development has to happen.
Which is why it is so infuriating when someone like Fikile Mbalula, who was a swaggering idiot when he was sports minister, tweets about the changes in CSA taking transformation backwards.
When Mbalula was sports minister I can remember countless hours of bluster and big talk about transformation but I can’t remember a single meaningful impact he made in that department.
Without government investment at grassroots, transformation will not succeed.
Transformation and the plight of Black African cricket has also not received much love from their own people on the CSA board.
From the time Aaron Phangiso was shamefully used as window dressing at the 2015 World Cup and did not play a single game, the suits instead only getting involved on the eve of the semifinal to ensure Kyle Abbott was dropped, to the awful treatment of former Proteas assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa, there is no hiding from the fact that the board have failed when it comes to transformation.
It has been the much-maligned Smith who has actually brought Maketa in from the wilderness and seconded him to the SA U19 side for their World Cup later this month.
There have also been allegations that the salaries of Black Africans in important positions are less than what Whites previously in those roles were paid.
The Proteas should not be the drivers of transformation while they are at the same time trying to win in the cut-throat world of international sport, they should be the beneficiaries of it happening at the levels below them.
Ken Borland is The Citizen’s chief cricket writer.
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