Uncomfortable truths on the horizon for Cricket SA
In a country where black lives haven’t mattered much, those lives will matter regardless of what the likes of Dippenaar or Symcox think
Cricket SA may be accepting of the Black Lives Matter movement‚ but it also needs to brace itself for uncomfortable truths that may come its 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 SA’s rooted and cemented socioeconomic inequalities continue to permeate this country.
If there is a sport that mirrors this accurately‚ it is cricket. The lush fields and ovals that often dot leafy suburbs across SA’s big metropoles and most former Model C schools are few and far or nonexistent in the townships.
Then there is Lungi Ngidi‚ who plays his franchise cricket at a place that was once called Verwoerdburg.
Two national team players from different eras‚ but carrying the same Black Lives Matter message in contrasting but effective ways.
Ngidi wants his teammates 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 through 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 or Ngidi.
Born three weeks apart in 1977‚ Prince and Dippenaar made their first-class debut in the same season (1995/1996)‚ 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 him.
Dippenaar’s head-start may look insignificant compared to Prince’s blossomed career‚ but it’s a telling one in how white talent is given the national highway to learn to drive while black batting talent has to take the potholed route.
Cricket SA is still trying to deal with 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 Cricket SA wasn’t ready at the time to deal with the delicate nature of black batting and how it is weighted against its white counterpart.
While Herschelle Gibbs dazzled and fizzled in a longer and more colourful career‚ Prince was the first post-isolation black 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, but nobody else of his hue has come out and said the same thing.
Cricket SA was recently taken to task by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa for a lack of representation in senior coaching and managerial positions. Also‚ it has never adequately addressed the despicable treatment some of its black players have been subjected to. Makhaya Ntini‚ Lungile “Loots” Bosman‚ Thami Tsolekile and Garnett Kruger are just a few black players in SA 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‚ Cricket SA are finding the right racial ground. When the former players speak‚ Cricket SA has to be braced for pain and a public backlash‚ one that the organisation can only take responsibility for.
As the custodians of cricket‚ it has 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 on, those lives will matter regardless of what the likes of Dippenaar and Symcox think.
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