Transformation? Black superstars in SA cricket? All in good African time!

2010-02-13 00:00

THE manner of the Dolphins’ demise in this season’s domestic Pro20 season has been nothing short of abysmal.

The list of problems running through the KZN Cricket Union is long and complicated, but at its core is the need for one vision.

In many ways, the same problems being faced in Durban are being encountered in Maritzburg and, on a much bigger scale, at the Cricket South Africa (CSA) headquarters.

A casual conversation I had with Dolphins coach Graham Ford confirmed that the problem of transformation is just as prevalent in Durban as it is up the N3.

South Africa’s handling of the Makhaya Ntini case suggests that the issue has been allowed to drag on in ignorant bliss.

Let us also be very clear on one thing. When CSA speak of transformation, they are referring to black cricketers.

Ntini has served them long and well, but he has lost his pace and is not the bowler he was a few years ago.

I suggested back in September last year that the Proteas, in an ideal world, would be better served going into the English series without the Mdingi Express. Not because of anything else but the fact that the trio of pacemen currently in use in India were ready to take the side on to greater heights. They did the same with Shaun Pollock in 2008, but the Ntini situation was a lot more complicated.

It is baffling, indeed petrifying, that no other black alternatives have been cultivated to replace Ntini when this day came.

But perhaps it is time for us to be brutally honest. I went to a school where we had the resources to pursue any sport we wanted.

The whities flocked to the cricket ovals and the rugby fields, while most of the darkies loped off to the basketball courts and the soccer patch.

Of course, there were a few exceptions. But the general dispersion suggested that people played what they are most comfortable playing.

Imagine if New Zealand, with its annual feast of rugby and sheep-shearing, suddenly deemed it necessary to have more Maoris in their soccer team.

Or if Australia suddenly said their swimming team lacked enough Aboriginals?

It would take years — decades, in fact — to produce the interest within a group of people whose interests lie elsewhere.

There are black cricketers in this country with the potential to one day play at the top level.

But only when they are ready.

International cricket is brutal in its honesty. If you don’t make the grade, you are ruthlessly exposed, especially in Test cricket.

The road to the Proteas being listed as number one is littered with disaster cases of black cricketers being rushed through the system and then being set back irretrievably.

It’s not their fault, but they are the ones who suffer.

You cannot manufacture passion for a sport that takes all day, in stifling heat and is often played against people much better than you.

It’s hard to maintain your interest under those circumstances. I speak from experience, because many schoolmates of mine used to ask me why I was wasting my Saturdays chasing leather instead of ladies.

But if it’s in you, then you will do it. In KZN, especially, cricket is a distant cousin to soccer and even rugby. That’s just the plain truth of the matter.

The Dolphins team reflects that, and that will not change overnight.

Trying to manufacture passion for a game as complicated as it is compelling will never work.

What CSA needs to rather do is pour more time and money into the diamond field that is the Eastern Cape.

Neil Johnson mentioned it in his column recently, and it is true that cricket is flourishing in that region.

Heck, if you scour the franchises around the country, most of the black players came from there any­way.

Cricket has long been in their culture, these Xhosas.

And that’s great.

In Cape Town, the number of coloureds in the Cobras ranks mean they never even have to worry about a quota count.

The likes of Vernon Philander, Henry Davids and Rory Kleinveldt are there on merit.

Likewise, the number of Indians in the Dolphins are there because this is a game that suits them down to the ground.

Khaya Zondo is in the Dolphins set-up, and as promising as he is, he needs time to find his feet and learn his craft. Being a top-class batsman is the most torturous of job descriptions. Making runs is tough enough without having to worry if you are there on merit.

The time may well come when Zulus grow to truly love the sport, and flock to see their children decked out in whites — knowing full well that the Omo powder will be working overtime to clean out those grass stains!

But not yet.

You cannot force people to take on a new interest. You can only introduce them to it, and hope to heck that they embrace it.

CSA needs to re-address their quota stance. They are doing more harm than good, and may well end up pushing aside real talents — of any other colour — because they are fixated with getting more black faces.

The day will come when us darkies take over — we always do.

But it seems the very same administrators have forgotten that we like to take our own sweet time to get around to changing things.

Have Gerald Majola and the like never heard of good ol’ African time?

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