Racial quotas

2008-02-11 00:00

After the two victorious home series this summer, and the sincere and moving tributes paid nationally to the departing Shaun Pollock, cricket fans will be dismayed by the latest furore over the selection of the squad to tour Bangladesh. With Cricket South Africa chairman Norman Arendse and national coach Mickey Arthur laying charge and counter-charge of “disrespectful and abusive behaviour” against each other, brickbats in the boardroom again threaten to displace cricket bats on the field of play. The dispute is over an issue that is becoming wearisome: are players to be selected for their ability, their form, and their fitness to take on the kind of opponents and conditions they are likely to meet, or are racial quotas to prevail — something which the government, incidentally, has recently declared it no longer requires, although contradictions persist.

The game, its supporters and the team itself need the assurance that the overriding criterion for selection is cricketing merit. Every player needs to be confident that he, like all his team-mates, is in the squad because he is the best available person for the role he will be asked to play. Unless and until that is the case, outside interference and these undignified and damaging disputes will continue to bedevil the game.

And, while the argument is getting old, there is a new challenge looming: some very lucrative offers are now being made to lure good players away from the national cricketing arena. If up-and-coming youngsters can no longer believe that they will be given a fair crack at achieving the highest honour to which a player can aspire — that of representing their country — they will look elsewhere and the ultimate loser is the nation itself.

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