Cricket SA hearings: Ashwell Prince on how he was called a quota player despite his excellence

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Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince of South Africa with the trophy following their victory during day three of the second test match between South Africa and Bangladesh at SuperSport Park on November 28, 2008 in Centurion, South Africa.
Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince of South Africa with the trophy following their victory during day three of the second test match between South Africa and Bangladesh at SuperSport Park on November 28, 2008 in Centurion, South Africa.
Lee Warren
  • Former Proteas batter Ashwell Prince explained how he battled to come to terms with being called a quota player despite an extensive playing career with the Proteas.
  • He also highlighted how he declined to work with the Cricket South Africa structures because of his qualifications.
  • Prince also spoke about the racial insensitivities he was exposed to while in the national team.

In what was an unemotional, but forthright testimony at the Cricket for Social Justice and Nation-building hearings on Tuesday, former Proteas batter and Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince explained why he didn't take up a coaching position at Cricket South Africa in late 2019.

Prince, who at the time was coaching the Cape Cobras on the domestic circuit while mentoring the Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League, said there wasn't clarity from CSA's director of cricket Graeme Smith with regards to his role as a batting coach. 

Prince said Smith had former Protea Jacques Kallis in mind as the batting coach to join Mark Boucher, Charl Langeveldt and Justin Ontong in the men's national team, meaning he didn't have a place in the coaching staff.

"If Kallis is going to be the batting coach, what am I going to do? What is my role in the coaching staff? I've only ever been a batsman," Prince said.

"Since I was a reasonable fielder, fielding coach came to mind, but there already was a fielding coach. With Kallis there as the batting coach, I again asked as to what my position will be.

"He then said we'll see where we can fit you in or whatever the case may be, from where I said that if there isn't a position for me.

"If you want a certain amount of black or non-white faces on your staff, don't call me. If there's one thing he should have known about me having captained me is that I want to be treated with respect.

"If you're going to put me in a position, put me in a position instead of sitting on the balcony with the Proteas staff without a role."

Prince, who ended up coaching the South Africa 'A'  team in the build-up to the 2019/20 Test series against England, said he chose not to apply for the SA 'A' position because of a lack of experience.

One of the reasons for not applying for the job was the furor around Boucher's lack of coaching qualifications and experience for the men's national team coaching job.

"How do you appoint a person without the relevant qualifications in the light of the uproar with the Boucher appointment?" Prince said.

"One of the former players applied for the position and I knew for a fact that the individual didn't have the experience because he retired and became a coach after me.

"He didn't have the Level 4 requirements because he hadn't been on the course and the person ended up in a position that wasn't advertised."

Parts of Prince's testimony were emotional, with two incidents he cited being that of his team-mates referring to Indian fans fighting during a game at Kingsmead as "f****** c******" in the 2006/07 season while also being at the centre of a leaked story of black players who were not in support of transformation.

Prince, who said he lived with the stigma of being called a quota player despite a highly accomplished international career, couldn't believe that quotas were used as an excuse for the 2007 Cricket World Cup failure.

A patchy performance saw the Proteas lose twice to Australia, including a heavy semi-final defeat while also gifting games to New Zealand and Bangladesh in the Super Eights

"One of the players muscled up the confidence to say one of the problems we have is the quota system," Prince said.

"One or two others gained a bit of confidence and others then latched onto that and said that's the problem in our cricket.

"I'd reached a point where I didn't care if I had played another game but I had my say where I raised that we were being blown away by Australia and if people had owned up that we'd been beaten by a better team, we could have walked out of that room with no dramas.

"On that day, I wasn't good enough and my nerves failed me, but for players of that calibre to insinuate that quotas lost the game, who else must bat?"

An incident that also bothered Prince took place in 2009 when he was fighting for a place in the Test team after a broken thumb saw JP Duminy explode onto the Test scene in the 2008/09 tour of Australia.

In a Four-Day Franchise game against the Titans where the southpaw featured for the Warriors, Prince said former team-mates like AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph and Paul Harris agitated him by saying he's only in the national team because of quotas.

Prince made 254 in that and on his return to the national team for the third Test against Australia in 2009 as an opener at Newlands, he made 150.

"De Villiers insinuated I was upset about not batting at five in this match, but the national selectors asked me to open the batting because in the third Test, it would be as an opening batter," Prince said.

"Harris came on to bowl and in his first over, I smashed him. In his second over I smashed him again. He started mouthing off some expletives and I decided to defend myself. I smashed him again.

"We had four or five Titans players come in and try to intimidate me and we were having lots of words at the end of every over.

"It soon broke out to the usual and three players in particular had words to say: Harris, AB and Jacques Rudolph, who said I'm only playing for the national teams because of quotas. I told Rudolph I am really glad we are having this fight today.

"As players of colour, this is what we always assumed you guys think of us. This is what we always assumed you talk about.

"I am happy I know who sits next to me in the national team. Now we know where we stand."

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