Lloyd Burnard | Boucher or no Boucher, pointing fingers at Paul Adams is not acceptable

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Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Whatever your views may be on Cricket South Africa's (CSA) decision to charge Proteas head coach Mark Boucher with gross misconduct following allegations of racism, Paul Adams cannot be made your villain, and his testimony needed to be heard. 

On Thursday it was confirmed that Boucher, head coach of the national side since late 2019, would face an independent inquiry that could cost him his job.

This is the next step in a process that started when Adams testified at the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings in July last year, opening up on the racial discrimination he had experienced during his Proteas playing days.  

The Proteas group at the time, which included Boucher, sang a celebratory song directed at Adams in post-match fines meetings that referred to him as "brown s***".  

Those are the facts.

And regardless of what the team culture was, or how young and naïve players were, there needs to be an acceptance that what Adams endured was not okay. 

CSA, simply, had to act, and to suggest that their timing is problematic given the ongoing ODI series against India is also short-sighted.

When would the right time have been? The Proteas leave for New Zealand for a two-Test tour on 2 February.

Boucher addressed the issue in a 14-page affidavit submitted to the SJN, where he offered an apology that was not deemed satisfactory.

When CSA then received the full SJN report in December, there were "tentative" findings of discrimination levelled against the wicketkeeping legend, and with those came a need for the organisation to unpack the allegations further, which is what is happening now. 

"I look forward to dealing with and defending these allegations which have been made and will do so at the hearing in due course," Boucher said in a statement on Thursday, hours after news of his charges broke. 

At some point soon, Boucher will sit before an independent inquiry. He will give his version of events and elaborate on his affidavit, and he will be held accountable. He will contextualise, he will apologise and he will seek finality on a matter that is now threatening not only his position, but his legacy. 

What happens from here is where this matter becomes incredibly complex.

Should this cost Boucher his job? That is the question that ultimately needs answering, and it is one that understandably divides heated opinion. 

What cannot happen, though, is for Adams' testimony to be held up as the problem. 

Over the past 48 hours, comments on social media and from readers on this platform have been concerning, with cricket followers pointing fingers at the former national spinner with many asking why he waited so long - 20 years seems to be the accepted time-frame - before telling his story. 

Such observations miss the point entirely, and they are feeble efforts and deflecting from the real issues.  

When he gave his testimony, Adams made it abundantly clear that his drive was not to throw any one individual under the bus, or to benefit personally in any way. 

"Maybe he should come and say sorry. Maybe that's all that needs to happen," Adams said at the time. 

This is not Boucher v Adams. There can be no winners. 

The long-overdue mandate of the SJN was to provide a platform where cricket people, past and present, could come forward with their lived experiences of exclusion and discrimination in the sport. 

If nothing else, the SJN was to provide that much-needed perspective, and to bring cricket to a place where it could collectively acknowledge its history of inequality. 


Firstly, so that those individuals and their stories could be heard. Secondly, so that the wrongs of times past would never be repeated. 

Adams' testimony was as important as any other in highlighting that inequality. He acknowledges himself that, at the time, he saw little wrong with the nature of the fines meetings celebrations, and it was much later when he came to a place where he could look back and acknowledge that what he went through was blatant racism. 

That journey is his, and his alone, and it needs to be respected and understood, not questioned.  

The SJN was always going to unearth some uncomfortable truths for South African cricket to work through, and while this is the story that has commanded headlines given the high-profile statuses of Boucher and Adams, the hearings were littered with equally troubling experiences from school level through to club and provincial. 

What happens next in this particular case is important, and CSA have done the right thing in not acting hastily based on the tentative findings of the SJN report. 

It ensures that whatever the outcome, it will be one that is considered. 

When that time does come, hopefully there can be some sort of closure, and South African cricket can take steps in the right direction, free from these ugly shackles.

That moment will only have been possible because of people like Adams who came forward. They, and he, should be applauded.

Lloyd Burnard is the editor of Sport24, an award-winning sports journalist and author of Miracle Men: How Rassie's Springboks Won the World Cup.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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