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Kagiso Rabada of SA. Picture: PANKAJ NANGIA/GALLO IMAGES
Kagiso Rabada of SA. Picture: PANKAJ NANGIA/GALLO IMAGES

Rob Walter’s call for provincial unions to start pulling their weight in transformation will not make him many friends among Cricket SA’s provincial affiliates.

Walter, who is responsible for the selection of the Proteas One-Day squads, chose Kagiso Rabada as the only black African player in the 15-man group that will represent SA at June’s T20 World Cup.

Lungi Ngidi is accompanying the squad but only as a travelling reserve and may get called into the main side, but even if that were the case it is still a damning indictment on Cricket SA’s development initiatives.

“The [provincial] system needs to up the ante so in six months, 12 months or two years, and in particular when we reach the 2027 World Cup at home, the demographics and representation in our teams start to look a bit different,” said Proteas coach Walter.

On Sunday, the organisation made a big point of celebrating Freedom Day during the final of the CSA T20 Challenge at the Wanderers.

Cricket SA has poured millions of rand into development in the three decades since SA’s first democratic elections, but if only two black African players are good enough for a Proteas squad, those initiatives must be deemed a failure.

Previously it was easy to throw the Proteas coaches and selectors under the bus, but increasingly it is the provincial union presidents, who make up the Members Council, Cricket SA’s highest decision-making body, who are responsible.

Five of them sit on Cricket SA’s board of directors, so it’s not as if they don’t have influence or that their predecessors didn’t.

But every time a Proteas squad was picked and the number of black players didn’t match up with the targets Cricket SA set for itself, it was the coaches or selectors who were blamed.

That can no longer be the case.

Deeply concerning

“My No 1 imperative is to create a winning Proteas team and to do that I must pick the best team at the time that I think will give us the best chance of doing that,” Walter said on Tuesday after naming the squad for the T20 World Cup.

“The system”, as Walter puts it, is the domestic one in which 15 provincial unions participate and the scarcity of black African talent, especially players capable of pushing for Proteas places, is deeply concerning for him.

However, it is not something he is responsible for. It was Cricket SA’s Members Council and board that decided on the structure, ostensibly to create more playing opportunities.

Despite that, in looking at this year’s CSA T20 Challenge, that just two black African players are in the top 20 run-scorers in the tournament must give the provincial presidents food for thought.

The competition is not of the same standard as the SA20, and unlike that tournament, it is the unions who are responsible for contract players and putting together teams that have to adhere to Cricket SA’s racial targets in the T20 Challenge.

And while Walter gave greater credence to performances in the SA20 when picking the World Cup group, if he was looking for players to make an impression in the T20 Challenge, he had little to work with.

Sibonelo Makhanya is an established provincial player, but his 348 runs in the T20 Challenge at a strike rate of 132.82 was never going to see him compete with Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller or Tristan Stubbs for a middle order spot for a World Cup.

Andile Mokgakane, the 24-year-old Warriors top order batter, also had a good T20 Challenge, scoring 297 runs with strike rate of 123.75. He will be at the Proteas training camp at the Centre of Excellence in Tshwane in a fortnight, but his stats aren’t going to force Walter’s hand, not when the likes of Matthew Breetzke and Rassie van der Dussen are being left out of the squad.

The onus is on the provincial union presidents to, as Walter put it, “up the ante”, in the quality of black players they are selecting, how those players are being developed and trained and the opportunities they are being given.

Too often the provinces want to leave everything in Cricket SA’s hands and conduct whispering sessions when the national team doesn’t look the way they want it to. They have the responsibility to make sure Walter has the players he wants and, most importantly, needs to ensure the Proteas can win a World Cup.

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