Black Cricketers Justified In Calling Out White Privilege And Preference In SA Cricket By Cheryl Roberts

17 Nov




IMG_2243I don’t know where they found it, but black cricketers have claimed the strength to confront SA cricket’s governing body, Cricket South Africa, about the representation status of black cricket within the national men’s cricket team.

In a letter penned by black cricketers and signed off with #DrinksCarriersMustFall, it’s clear to see the confidence and inspiration to challenge national sports federations when black sports lives are being suffocated, has undoubtedly arrived directly from the student resistance and protests at South Africa’s tertiary institutions.

I give accolades to the black cricketers for challenging cricket’s officialdom, for asking cricket’s leaders and management why black crickets are being suffocated and forced to breathe with little air, while white cricketers are given all the space to flourish.

The black cricketers write in their letter to CSA, how they are ‘sick and tired’, despite being selected, of not making it to play for the national team and being drinks carriers. The players have had enough; they are claiming their blackness as real and not fake or untalented. They are speaking out, challenging the white privilege and protection occupying SA’s national cricket team.

And yes, the black cricketers are justified! Because for too long they have been discarded, unrecognised and given raw deals, irrespective of the colour of national coaches and selectors. Without having an organised civil society voice speaking out and for them, the black cricketers have engineered their activism in sport, telling cricket officials they are not going to be used as ‘drinks carriers; when they can play cricket.

It’s about time CSA was challenged. In the 20 or so years of its existence, the facts exist that tell the brutal tale of how talented black cricketers, especially Black African players could didn’t get chances to see beyond the cricket’s misty provincial landscape.

In sport the world over, including South Africa, sports officials and managers favour muting and curbing their members from speaking out against wrongs and injustices. Players, athletes, sportswomen and sportsmen are warned not to ‘speak to the media’ or ‘face disciplinary action’.

Over the past two decades I have written about the injustices meted out to black cricketers, including players and coaches and black African cricketers. I have asked what has become of developing and emerging cricketers? Why have black African cricketers not surfaced and played representative matches for the national team?

In the first decade of post-apartheid cricket, CSA’s then CEO, Ali Bacher was the architect of cricket development which kept black cricketers being regarded as ‘development’ players, never good enough for playing international cricket. Bacher had an uncritical media popularise CSA’s development initiatives which informed the public how black children and youth were being ‘developed’. All this time it was the adult white men cricketers who were getting the opportunities galore to play international cricket and represent South Africa.

CSA has, over the years, despite having black officials and leaders been unjustifiably cruel to black cricketers. Pressure was mounted for black cricketers to be recognised and acknowledged, to be given the same chances given to white cricketers. As black cricketers made their debuts, they had to take the five week haul and score the runs, or face being dropped und told ‘they were not ready’ for international play.

Years ago pressure was on CSA to field a black African cricketer. Thankfully, CSA’s prayers were answered. Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini came through from grassroots to the international field, to not only take wickets for SA, but to be rated world class. But then came the non-appearance and subsequent drought of Black African cricketers. Despite having the international qualities, black Africans continued to be ignored.

CSA then had to act. They reacted with a renewal of their transformation goals, stipulating required numbers of black cricketers at franchise level. After SA’s disappointing world cup performance, where the only black African world cup cricketer never got to play a game, South Africa’s national cricket team got back onto the international calendar of play.

Surprisingly, the national team has favoured white player representation, with some black cricketers, but just one or two black African players. Now the black cricketers have had enough and are asking why should they be dealt such low blows and be used in the national team just as ‘twelfth man’ and ‘water carrier’.

A litany of insults has been dished out to black African cricketers with either their non-selection or them not being played in an international game. However, a litany of chances and opportunities has been awarded to many under-achieving and under-performing white players. In their letter, the black cricketers have told the CSA, to either have confidence to play them or don’t select them, but not to use them as ‘political pawns’.

This is powerful, conscious activism by the black cricketers. It is needed and welcomed. The black cricketers are human and have the cricket prowess. Why must they be treated as perpetual developing players well into their 20’s and 30’s? And why do national selectors and coaches have no faith or confidence in black cricketers?

This activism by the cricketers should stimulate critical debate and inspire sports people to speak out against the injustices in sport in South Africa and white privilege prevailing in cricket and rugby and several other sports.IMG_2243

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