- Proteas coach Mark Boucher has answered questions relating to a host of off-field issues facing South African cricket.
- Boucher is comfortable with the strides made on tackling the conversation around Black Lives Matter.
- The Proteas are set to play their first cricket in nine months when they host England in a limited overs series.
Since the coronavirus pandemic brought sport to a screeching halt in March, Cricket South Africa (CSA) has been through one of the most testing periods in its history.
An organisation lacking in leadership suffered an administrative collapse that is far from resolved, the pandemic threatened the livelihoods of all involved with the game and, back in July, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement rocked South African cricket as former players came forward with stories of a system that was historically problematic and not always inclusive.
Sparked by the initial words of young speedster Lungi Ngidi, South African cricket was forced to take a long, hard look at itself and how, in the past, it created systems and cultures that did not provide equal opportunity.
Later in July, all players, coaches and management involved in CSA's 3TC product at Centurion took a knee in support of BLM while, in August, head coach Mark Boucher and the Proteas attended a culture camp in Skukuza where they had frank conversations around where they had come from, culturally, and where they wanted to go.
Now, for the first time in nine months, the Proteas are set to take to the field when they host England in three T20s and then three ODIs between 27 November and 9 December.
"Everything happens for a reason and we had some tough issues to deal with at our Skukuza camp and we dealt with them, which was great," said Boucher when addressing media on Thursday.
"We dealt with some hard issues that governments worldwide haven't been able to deal with.
"I'm very happy with where the guys are at the moment. We started fresh, we restructured our values and built from the start."
Boucher has had conversations with Ngidi about the Proteas and their BLM position and both are satisfied that the Proteas are on the right track.
More important than making any grand gestures, Boucher says, is living a culture of inclusivity and respect.
"It's a growing process and something that we keep looking to be better at," he said.
"It's an ongoing thing for us. It's not something that we have to continue to show, I think it's more something that you have to live and that's exactly what we're trying to do in our dressing room at the moment.
"Our new value system is about respect, empathy and belonging and I think all of those lead to an environment where guys feel free and open to talk about these hard issues."
There is a good chance, then, that the Proteas will not take a knee ahead of the first ball of the first T20 at Newlands on 27 November.
There are, as Boucher says, other issues at play too.
At the request of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African flag will fly at half-mast in the first T20 in mourning of the victims of gender-based violence and the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa. The Proteas could also wear black armbands.
"We will be addressing this with the team, so if there is a black armband to wear, it will be because of the President's call," said Boucher.
Boucher also acknowledged the administrative issues currently facing CSA.
"The CSA issues are there," he said.
"We have to try and put that behind us. We understand that we're in a position to bring some good news to the game in our country.
"If we start playing a good brand of cricket and leading from the front in that perspective, hopefully we can change a couple of perceptions about the game in our country."
Boucher confirmed that one player in the current squad had tested positive for the coronavirus and that he was no longer at the team hotel.
It was important, the coach added, to acknowledge the "care factor" when it came to dealing with the coronavirus and not to simply look at what it meant for the team.
"Covid is something that is in the world and we have to live with it," said Boucher.
"There are going to be times when guys get infected with covid ... it's not ideal, but it impacts everyone.
"I think there are bigger things in life than a sporting team ... there are families involved.
"There is a bigger picture to this whole thing. It's a very real situation and yes, it does affect us, but it's more about the welfare of those players and looking after them from a mental perspective."
Boucher himself tested positive for the coronavirus back in July.