Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS
Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS

Former Proteas middle-order stalwart Jonty Rhodes raised eyebrows when he said he was a beneficiary of white privilege from a selection perspective during his storied cricket career.

Rhodes‚ an electric fielder and more than capable middle-order batsman with 52 Tests and 245 ODIs under his belt‚ told The Hindu that his statistics were average when he was first picked for the national team in 1992.

Rhodes rose to prominence at the 1992 World Cup when he ran out Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq in a critical round-robin game in Brisbane that SA went on to win.

Rhodes’s comments come in the midst of the SA national team being unable to meet its transformation targets in the Test series against England. There is also the significant matter of Temba Bavuma’s dropping from the Test team, which ignited a heated debate over selection policies when a player returns from injury and what quantifies weight of runs to return to the Test team.

“I certainly benefited from the fact that I wasn’t really competing with 50% of the population. I literally was competing only with the white players. You talk about white privilege and it raises a lot of heat and debate on social media but it is the case.

“I’m very aware of that. My cricketing statistics as a player were very average when I was selected‚” Rhodes told The Hindu. “If I was competing with the rest of the country then possibly I wouldn’t have been picked. And I would not have been diving around the field.”

Rhodes‚ who last played international cricket for the Proteas at the 2003 World Cup, which was held in SA‚ also told The Hindu that the legacy of apartheid still stains SA cricket‚ society in general and how the game has not adequately developed black players.

“We in SA have a legacy of apartheid. How many generations does it take to address that? You still have disadvantaged communities based on race. So they might have political freedom but they don’t have economic freedom‚” Rhodes said.

“The biggest question for me is why in over 20 years have we not produced opportunities for young players in disadvantaged communities? It’s not about racism. It’s about equal opportunity and that’s not happening.”

With fast bowler Kagiso Rabada suspended for this week’s final Test at the Wanderers‚ SA’s selection think-tank does not have anywhere to turn to for a fit and firing Test-class bowler.

Lungi Ngidi has missed the series with injury, while national teammate Tabraiz Shamsi plus Warriors pair of Sisanda Magala and JJ Smuts have been placed in a high-performance fitness and conditioning camp at Cricket SA’s High Performance Centre in Tshwane.

Bavuma‚ Beuran Hendricks‚ Keegan Petersen and Andile Phehlukwayo have been recalled from their franchise teams and have rejoined the squad for Friday’s Test.

Bavuma, in particular, pressed a serious selection case with his impressive but futile fourth innings 180, which could not stave off defeat for the Lions against the Dolphins in Pietermaritzburg last week. Whether he will play on Friday when there is a general team malfunction will remain to be seen‚ but SA are in need of a black African player in the match-day 11.

Rhodes said SA’s selectors are caught between a rock and a hard place.

“Now you have a scenario where Rabada is suspended [for the fourth Test]. If Ngidi is injured and can’t play‚ that will mean Bavuma has to play. You’re dropping a fast bowler but you’re bringing in a batsman. From that perspective‚ it really is tough‚” Rhodes said.