OPINION | Why Cricket SA may need to brace themselves for uncomfortable truths coming their way
Cricket South Africa (CSA) may be accepting of the Black Lives Matter movement‚ but they also need to brace themselves for uncomfortable truths that may come their way.
In a series of tweets‚ former Proteas batsman and current Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince detailed how he suffered racial abuse as a player in Australia in 2005/06‚ and how South Africa’s rooted and cemented socio-economic inequalities continue to permeate in this country.
If there’s a sport that mirrors this accurately‚ it’s cricket.
The lush fields and ovals that often dot leafy suburbs across South Africa’s big metropoles and most former Model C schools are few and far between in the townships‚ if not non-existent.
Then there’s Lungi Ngidi‚ who plays his franchise cricket at a place that was once called Verwoedburg.
Two different national team players from different eras‚ but carrying the same Black Lives Matter message in contrasting but effective ways.
The soft-spoken Ngidi wants his team-mates to have a discussion.
The seasoned and hardened Prince has all the receipts of ill-treatment and is willing to risk his career to speak truth to power.
Then there was Hendrik Human “Boeta” Dippenaar and Patrick Leonard Symcox with their aggressive reticence to the movement with their acerbic responses to Ngidi’s stance.
Mightily effective first-class players they were and reasonable for the national team‚ but without the talent and the excellence shown by Prince and Ngidi.
Born in 1977‚ Prince and Dippenaar are three weeks apart and made their first-class debuts in the same season (1995/96)‚ but Dippenaar had a 15-Test‚ two and a half year head-start on Prince‚ who went on to play more Tests and score more runs than Dippenaar.
Dippenaar’s head-start may look insignificant now because of how Prince’s career blossomed‚ but it’s a telling one in how white talent is given the national highway to learn how to drive while black batting talent has to take the potholed-route for lessons.
CSA is still trying to address the black batting shortfall‚ but it may have to confront how black batsmen have continuously fed off crumbs while their white counterparts received buttered slices.
Their handling of Temba Bavuma’s dropping was an example of tone-deafness and how CSA weren’t ready at the time to deal with the delicate nature of black batting‚ and how it’s weighted with its white counterparts.
While Herschelle Gibbs dazzled and fizzled in a longer and more colourful career‚ Prince was the first black post-isolation batsman who showed the necessary gritty goods in the manner of his white counterparts.
His voice has been loud and uncomfortable for the establishment because he’s an employee and not an outsider.
Various black cricketers and coaches have supported Ngidi and made it clear where they stand.
It puts their white counterparts who live in a majority black country in a difficult but necessary position of having to confront their privilege.
Jonty Rhodes was brave enough to admit he was a beneficiary of his fairer skin privilege and no one else of his hue has come out and said the same thing.
CSA were recently taken to task by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa for a lack of representation in senior coaching and managerial positions.
Also‚ they’ve never adequately addressed some of the despicable treatment some of its black players have been subjected to.
Makhaya Ntini‚ Lungile “Loots” Bosman‚ Thami Tsolekile and Garnett Kruger are just some of SA’s black players who got the rough end of the wedge in their careers.
Acknowledgement of an issue isn’t a problem and with five of the six franchise coaches being black‚ CSA are finding the right racial ground.
When the former players speak‚ CSA has to be braced for pain and a public backlash‚ one that the organisation can only take responsibility for.
As the custodians of cricket‚ they’ve failed black players and when players speak their truth‚ the embattled organisation‚ unlike untreated racists that litter this country‚ will have to take those slaps like a man.
In a country where Black Lives haven’t mattered while women’s rights have been trampled one‚ those lives will matter‚ regardless of what the likes of Dippenaar and Symcox think.