- Lungi Ngidi’s stance on Black Lives Matter, which drew criticism from Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar, caused the wave of support that came from 36 high-profile cricket personalities.
- Petersen said Symcox and Dippenaar’s reaction stirred anger in him, which brought back to the surface the injustices he faced as a player.
- The former opening batter said now is the time for players to speak out, to ensure a more even playing field for future Proteas cricketers.
Former Proteas opening batsman Alviro Petersen says Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar’s reaction to Lungi Ngidi’s support for Black Lives Matter stirred anger inside him, which prompted him to speak out against racism in cricket.
After Ngidi expressed his support for the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement and that he would urge fellow Proteas to do the same. Symcox, Dippenaar and Rudi Steyn, however, responded with broadsides aimed at the fast bowler and clouded issues by bringing up farm murders and "all lives matter".
The fierce debate, which played out on social media, eventually led to a number of black former Proteas cricketers such as Petersen, Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince, former national selector Hussein Manack and Titans bowler Ethy Mbhalati opening up about their experiences of prejudice within cricket.
Petersen, who scored five centuries in his 36 Tests for South Africa, felt compelled to respond to Symcox and Dippenaar and could not let it slide.
The 39-year-old is also one of the members of a 36-man group that on Tuesday expressed their support for Ngidi and the Black Lives Matter movement.
"We felt that this is the time to stand up," Petersen told Sport24.
"When I went on Twitter [and saw the Symcox and Dippenaar comments], I thought about it whether to stay out of it and leave it alone or say something.
"But there was anger inside of me. It was something different. I was disgusted by the comments and I had to express my position that I don’t agree with them. I think they didn’t expect that.
"Now that everyone has come out and put their names down to stand behind Lungi and stand against institutional and systematic racism, our voices will be heard. And that’s powerful.
"You might have thought you could silence people but when they come with a collective voice, it’s a beautiful thing."
Petersen, a childhood friend and teammate of Prince’s, said the moment, which could be defining for change in cricket, brought back memories of his struggles as a cricketer that he and Prince shared.
"Remember, people have been in lockdown and have had time to think about the past experiences and those things going through your mind," he said.
"And sometimes people don’t understand why a cricketer would just get upset … [they’d ask] 'but what’s wrong with you?'
"They don’t understand people like Ashwell, who has a deep history with discrimination in cricket. I played with his brother in club cricket. His brother, Ashwell will say, was more talented than him but never made it.
"There’s that anger towards the system. Every time Ashwell went into the middle, it’s almost like he would bat for his brother.
"When Ash and I put on a 501-run partnership (for Lancashire against Glamorgan in 2015) in England, his mom and dad were there.
"You could just see a different person. He was determined. We kept on saying that we are guys from Gelvandale in England now, so let’s show them what we’re made of. It was brilliant to be part of it."
He added that the goal of the group that banded together to support Ngidi wanted to see the state of cricket, especially regarding inclusivity, improve for future generations.
"No one on that list still has their playing career – my international career is finished, so is Ashwell’s – and none of us can get it back," said Petersen.
"But what we can do is, if there’s a six or seven-year-old somewhere in the township or anywhere in South Africa, whether black or white, make sure that there’s a level playing field for them.
"If that can happen, then South Africa will be a better place and cricket in South Africa will be a better sport. That’s what we want; to improve and not to stagnate."