Proteas do Rainbow SA proud

2013-01-19 00:00

ANY Spanish matador would experience more trouble disposing of a cow than the Proteas had in dispatching the hapless New Zealanders.

The two Test matches occupied fewer than six days, which left four days worth of vacant grounds and four days of re-runs on television.

No wonder the sensible citizens of Port Elizabeth saw it fit to give the excitement at St George’s Park a miss. It is thought that the attendance at the Dakin clan reunion was greater than the paid attendance on the final morning of the second Test match.

In days gone by, judges in many countries used to don black caps before passing the death sentence on convicted murderers. The deathly symbol has been passed on to the cricket team from the land of the long white cloud. Perhaps it is now the wearers who should be put out of their misery?

In the circumstances, the South Africans can be reasonably happy with their performances against the Kiwis. Most of the batsmen made runs and all the bowlers took some wickets. Jacques Kallis squeezed a trio of scalps from the two matches to keep inching his way to 300 Test wickets. I wonder if he has sufficient Test matches left in him to reach the magical number that would confirm his status, if such confirmation is needed, that he is the finest cricketer of all time.

Dean Elgar managed to lift his Test batting average into the forties, which is a long way from sub-zero, where it lingered for over a month. He will find it harder going against the Pakistanis, but the selectors will be pleased that they gave him another chance after the horrors of Perth.

There was some sloppy catching at Newlands, but with the exception of a rare miss by Kallis, it was very good at St George’s Park, where Alviro Petersen took several blinders.

The fielding of the team looks so much better now that Faf du Plessis and Robin Peterson are in it. It is not easy for teams to raise their games against poor opposition, but coach Gary Kirsten and captain Graeme Smith will be pleased that standards did not drop. The Proteas look in good shape for the confrontations against Pakistan.

With the Test team consistently delivering such good news, it is pathetic that the board of Cricket South Africa has seen fit to raise yet again the spectre of a prescribed quota for black players in all provincial teams as well as the national team itself.

Let us forget for a moment the credibility of a board that has seen fit to reject the recommendations of Judge Chris Nicholson in order to keep themselves in office.

The Proteas are one of the genuine success stories of the Rainbow Nation — how hollow this Tutu phrase seems 20 years later.

Why tamper with something in which the whole country has justifiable pride? The “best team in the world” tag was neither achieved nor sustained without considerable effort from all concerned.

It was not the result of decades of privilege enjoyed by the white minority. On the contrary, the Proteas team is an example of the very best that this country can achieve when the talents of all sections of its population are nurtured, drawn upon and put to the hard work required to reach something special.

The time has come to be blunt about some home truths in respect of our cricket team.

At the highest levels, the game is being dominated by two groups, the Coloureds from the Cape and Afrikaners. This is not necessarily an unwelcome development, nor does it overshadow the contribution to the national team from the three English-speaking players and its sole Asiatic.

Beneath these four giant oaks, however, those who are growing in their shade are being overtaken by others from different backgrounds.

Generally speaking, it is the Coloureds and Afrikaners who have realised that cricket can be a path to prosperity and are prepared to put in the hard work and sacrifice required to reach the top.

For various reasons, the English-speaking whites, Asiatics and blacks of this country have yet to come to this particular cricket party. For some, it has been a case of perceived roadblocks and more enticing paths to success. For others, it has been a combination of logistical difficulties and cultural attitudes.

The proper way forward for authorities who are genuinely bent on producing the best team in the world is to identify such problems and work steadfastly towards finding solutions. Interfering with the current selection process to achieve a questionable political objective is not the way to go.

Why is it that the only black cricketer to represent South Africa for any length of time remains Makhaya Ntini, who reached the national team without being the beneficiary of a quota system?

Those who know will tell you that it is because Ntini realised early in his career that in order to reach the top, he had to put in the “ten thousand hours” of hard work. It is a daunting prospect for anyone, but he did it and he reaped the rewards.

It is the career of the young man from Mdingi that should be the blueprint of any young cricketer driven by an ambition to play for his country. Administrators must identify and nurture those with talent and drive. They must then remove any roadblocks, perceived and otherwise, that might hinder such young players.

Of course, there will be failures however well executed the plans and programmes.

Success in sport is never a given even if all those hours are worked. Injuries, mental collapse and plain bad luck stand in the way of all aspirant athletes. Only a few make it to the top and fewer still stay there for any length of time. This is the romance of sport and, as with all romances, there are risks.

Put young cricketers on the correct path. Be aware that short cuts are not the answer.

Remember that we are all South Africans now and that patience is the greatest of all virtues.

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