When South Africa take the field at Headingley, memories of the all-white side that played a Test there in 1994 will feel like a distant world.
Eight of their 15-man squad for this summer’s one-day series against England and the Champions Trophy are either black, Asian or what the South Africans call ‘coloured’.
If you hear anyone cry ‘tokenism’, tell them to get a grip. South Africa have won their last seven bilateral one-day series, and are No 1 in the rankings. This is a team that means business – black, white, brown or fluorescent green.
When South Africa played England at Headingley in 1994, they were an all-white team
These days however, the side led by Kepler Wessels (above) feels like a distant world
Happily, they have reached the top with a side that is far more representative of the Rainbow Nation’s demographics than the one led by Kepler Wessels 23 years ago on South Africa’s first post-isolation tour of the UK.
Back then, one of the few nods to multiculturalism came when they flew the country’s new flag from the Lord’s balcony, in contravention of MCC’s house rules. The only non-white face in the touring party was assistant manager Goolam Rajah.
Now, racial quotas introduced last year dictate that an average of six players per game must be what South Africans refer to as ‘POCs’ (players of colour). Of those, two must be black African.
The two this time are fast-bowling starlet Kagiso Rabada, among the world’s most exciting talents, and the promising 21-year-old seamer Andile Phehlukwayo. Yet 80 per cent of the nation’s population is black – work clearly remains.
Kagiso Rabada, among the world’s most exciting talents, leads the South African bowling line
Promising 21-year-old seamer Andile Phehlukwayo is the other of two black players in the team
Players of Asian heritage and the so-called ‘coloured’ cricketers – who between them account for 11 per cent of the population – will have a higher profile during the one-day matches than their black counterparts.
Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir is miles ahead at the top of the ODI bowling rankings, while Hashim Amla – who has Indian forebears – is among the game’s greatest batsmen. Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj recently helped win a Test series in New Zealand, while veteran JP Duminy is a standard-bearer for the multiracial community on the Western Cape.
Since whites make up less than nine per cent of South Africa’s population, the seven white cricketers in the 15-man squad can only be understood in terms of the country’s apartheid past.
Hashim Amla – who has Indian forebears – is among the game’s greatest batsmen
It is a past the government has been understandably keen to erase. Last year, sports minister Fikile Mbalula demonstrated his impatience with the rate of change in South Africa’s major sporting teams, insisting he would no longer ‘beg for transformation’.
Cricket South Africa deny that they expanded the quota system in response to political pressure, but there is no doubting the desire to field a cricket team more in keeping with the racial make-up of the nation.
One consequence has been the flood of white South Africans arriving into the county game to take up Kolpak deals, whereby players from countries which have trade agreements with the European Union are not classified as overseas cricketers.
Veteran JP Duminy is a standard-bearer for the multiracial community on the Western Cape
While Brexit has encouraged those players to act now before Britain leaves the EU, there are also fewer opportunities back in South Africa, where a maximum of 30 white cricketers are allowed among the 66 spots available in the first-class domestic game.
‘We have lost some talented guys and it’s not good for our depth, but I feel it’s something in the past,’ said one-day captain AB de Villiers. ‘We have no reason not to be confident with the squad we have and we’re not harping about what we’ve lost. There’s nothing we can do about it.’
The refreshing truth is that it should make no difference at all to South Africa’s chances over the next few weeks.
via Cricket Articles | Mail Online
May 23, 2017 at 08:07PM