South Africa does not seem to trust its black cricketers

2012-10-12 00:00

I HAD been pining to watch 'Fire in Babylon' and when I did, it left me with a lot more questions.

One of those being: how is our black talent being managed and would it ever have as great an effect as that of the great West Indian side?

As I watched this excellent documentary film detailing the ascent of West Indian cricket, I was reminded of how this sport has an innate ability to unify fractured differences.

It also reminded me of how a cultural vibrancy in a team can contribute to a winning cause.

This is an ingredient definitely missing in South African cricket.

I grew up not liking the West Indies because of the beatings they dished out to the South Africans until 1998. Even though that enmity built within me, whenever they achieved something, there was always that sense of pride and happiness watching them succeed. After all, their success post South Africa’s isolation has always been intertwined with our failure.

Examples are the Champions Trophy of 2004 and their clinching of the Twenty20 World Cup last Sunday.

It is by no means a revival, but they are doing something right.

What has always stricken me about their cricket is their ability to rally around each other and draw from deep wells of determination and unity when they are faced with an insurmountable task.

They may have had a pronounced slump, but when the occasion demands they rise, they have this collective ability to shrug off the yoke that is bearing down on their shoulders.

As a South African, you start asking yourself: will our cricket ever have that kind of joie de vivre and that sort of unchained aggression that lifts a side a notch higher when need arises?

I seem to think not. Many a reason would be pointed out, such as the “dark mist” Proteas’ coach Gary Kirsten referred to last week.

It is a culture of winning, a culture of rising up and showing the middle-finger to that anomaly called pressure and there is a certain type of cricketer that hasn’t been given a chance to show its wares. With a vast reserve, especially in the coastal areas, a flame of burning black cricketers, whether they be coloured, Indian, Xhosa or Zulu, has yet to be unleashed.

Like the majority of the West Indian islands, South Africa was once a British colony, but unlike the islands, those chains of conservancy have to be shaken off. One might point out to Test success, but when you do not have a world title to show for it, unfortunately, it may all seem like bluff and bluster. Like its rugby players, and yes, I’ll say this, South Africa does not seem to trust its black cricketers. The transformation may have moved quicker than the snaillike pace seen in the oval-balled sport, but it has been slow nonetheless.

There are black cricketers who cannot only bowl fast, but who can hit a long ball, who can field and give the ball a proper rip, but the question of equal opportunity and nurturing will always be the burning question.

It needs to be remembered that it was under a black captain, that venerable Barbadian in Sir Frank Worrell, when the maroon caps made an international statement. We may have coloured first-class captains, but is South Africa close to discovering its own Worrell?

Cricket South Africa’s transformation manager Max Jordaan did tell this reporter that young leaders are identified, groomed at an early age and go through various leadership positions through their youth. What I did forget though and what will always remain as a pertinent issue, is that of the diamonds that have been missed in the rough.

Will we ever have our own 'Fire in Babylon' and who would stoke it?

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