Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Cricket SA seems set to miss its self-imposed deadline for getting to the bottom of a transformation target transgression in October.

The Cobras’ XI for their first-class fixture against the Warriors at Newlands included seven black players — one more than the stipulated number. But only two of them‚ fast bowlers Thando Ntini and Tladi Bokako‚ were black African — one fewer than the target.

“Cricket SA has noted the submission by Western Cape Cricket [WCC] in lieu of a request for a deviation from the administrative conditions‚” a Cricket SA spokesperson said at the time.

But according to Cobras coach Ashwell Prince‚ there was nothing “in lieu” about how he had approached the issue. “I followed the protocol‚” Prince told Business Day.

Cricket SA also said it would “launch a further inquiry into this incident and will consider all the related and relevant information to arrive at a decision about the strength and the validity of the argument by WCC”. It said “it is anticipated that the investigation may take up to 14 days”.

That was on October 29, and the 14 days expired on Tuesday.

Asked on Monday night whether Cricket SA had reached a decision‚ a spokesperson said only: “We will announce the outcome once we have concluded the matter.” Pressed for a better answer‚ he became defensive.

The Cobras squad contains four other black Africans — batters Aviwe Mgijima and Simon Khomari‚ and fast bowlers Akhona Mnyaka and Mthiwekhaya Nabe — while another‚ spinner Tsepo Ndwandwa‚ has played for the Cobras this season.

None were injured when the game against the Cobras started at Newlands on October 28.

Mgijima has scored just 39 runs in five first-class innings this season, while Khomari made two and four in his only match of the campaign.

Mnyaka took 1/30 in the nine overs he bowled on his debut in January‚ his only first-class match to date. Nabe also last played for the Cobras in January and has taken 47 wickets in 31 first-class games at an average of 43.27. Ndwandwa has claimed three wickets in the two first-class games he has played for the Cobras this season.

In cricket terms‚ none of those players is banging down the door for a place in the Cobras team.

Who might have been left out to make room for another black African is another consideration.

Five members of the top six who played average more than 30 this summer‚ with Kyle Verreynne topping the list at 70.66 and Matthew Kleinveldt weighing in at 56.

The only merely black — not black African — fast bowler in the side‚ Dane Paterson‚ has taken 18 wickets at 21.55 in four games.

The other three members of the team — Zubayr Hamza‚ George Linde and Dane Piedt‚ the captain — were all freshly back from SA’s poor Test series in India. It was thus in the national interest that they played.

And in the Cobras’ interest: before that match they had lost to the Lions and drawn with the Titans and Dolphins. The game against the Warriors was also drawn‚ leaving the Cobras second from bottom in the standings. There was no good cricket case to be made for forcing an out-of-form player into a side that needed a win at the expense of someone better equipped for their role.

But‚ as the Springboks proved emphatically at the World Cup in Japan‚ quotas can lead to triumph because they open eyes that were previously closed. There is a good argument to be made that the Boks would not have done as well as they did had teams not been forced to pick black players.

Decades of selection bias — consciously or not — robbed black players of their opportunities. With their presence guaranteed‚ they could not be unfairly sidelined. And‚ what do you know‚ they turned out to be among the best players SA had.

That Siya Kolisi‚ Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe merit their places is beyond question. As is the likelihood that‚ without quotas‚ they would never have been given the chance to prove it.

It is a happy ending cricket is still chasing‚ and the dwindling confidence in Cricket SA’s current leadership will not bring it any closer.

Perhaps that vital task should be left to people who know what they are doing‚ such as Warriors coach Robin Peterson.

“I can’t comment on what goes on right at the top but I can certainly say there’s great talent in SA‚” Peterson told Business Day during the now controversial Newlands match.

He is about 18 months from completing a master’s degree in sport directorship at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Peterson has not yet decided what his dissertation topic will be‚ but he has an idea. “Maybe I’ll do it on ethical transformation‚” he said. “Is there such a thing as ethical transformation? I’m living in a situation I can write about‚ so why not.”

Given SA’s past and present‚ Peterson will not want for research material.

“It’s very difficult to heal wounds‚ but if this is your only skill in life it’s very difficult to kill people’s dreams. You have to give them opportunities if they’re good enough to play.”

It seems a simple statement‚ but South Africans will know just how complex it is.