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The Paradox that is South African Cricket ….

The Paradox that is South African Cricket ….

Mention South African cricket to any cricket supporter and the first three words which come to mind usually are either Jonty Rhodes, Hansie Cronje or World Cup Chokers ….. the order of that depends on whether you love, or hate us :-p If you’re Australia, it’s usuallly the latter, and if you’re from the sub-continent then it’s the other way around. The English are generally ambivalent about the whole issue …. but seeing that they always love a good gossip and I-told-you-so I reckon that they would start with the Hansie issue ;-) But, having said that, it’s all good … being South African we have come to taking it on the chin lately (after 6 World Cups even we can’t be in denial anymore)

I don’t think too many cricket followers truly appreciate the dynamics of South Africa cricket – that would perhaps enlighten everyone as to our mindset, and why we do certain things in a certain way …. and then some.

I’m sure everyone is all to aware of South Africas apartheid past …. and I doubt that anyone can truly appreciate the repercussions and dynamics of it, unless you are South African :? of whatever colour … or shape ;-) A brief history withou digressing too much and sticking to the facts which no-one can dispute ….. is that about 70 odd years ago the powers that be in SA passed racial laws seperating everyone – from bathrooms, to cricket grounds to where you ate … that included playing sport. As a result of that, there are several inequalities which exist in South African sport (elsewhere, notably the psyche) which is hard to erase. And is proving even more difficult to do so.

Part of the “solution” so to speak, to redress the inequalities of the past has been “affirmative action” which is a law – is common practice in the workplace and other sectors of society – however practising it in sport has proven to be an Achilles heel. Here, it is commonly referred to as “quotas” which to some is a particularly derogatory way of referring to it.

Does it work? That’s a moot point … it’s a particularly sore topic in cricket – and everyone thinks that they are right … I think possibly the only thing that ALL South Africans can agree on, is that the inequalities need to be redressed, just exactly HOW we go about doing that is a source of much controversy. Politics and sport are intertwined in this country of ours, and I doubt that the two shall ever be seperated.

So you’re probably asking yourself how this affects the Proteas? To an outside observer, it does’nt make any sense … but to any player seeking to make a name in either the provincial or national set-ups – it makes all the difference, at some point in his career, it will. And this is reflected in the decisions that are made with regard to their choices. Most notably, in players leaving our shores for opportunities in other countries.

The national team always suffers the most, with rumours always abounding and pressure from administrators and politicians seeking to “encourage” broader demographics in the national teams. To those who don’t understand couch speak, that means, that the politicians WANT … yes, want … the national sporting teams (and indeed, anything else in SA) to be more-or-less as per the demographics of the land.

Is that right? Well, I suppose it depends on what your viewpoint is … it depends whether you want a winning team before a socially conscious team. My opinion is that you can have both, if we were lead by capable administrators and politicians. The national team needs to be more socially conscious, appeal to the society at large – and they could do this by being more active in community upliftment programs. Granted that they have a hectic schedule and then some – the South African situation is unique and requires a more active hands on approach in engaging with people. To be a peoples team, you need to BE WITH THE PEOPLE.

So did it have anything to do with the 3 things that I initially mentioned? Probably not Hansie, he was on his own ill fated mission …. but with the other two, damn straight it did. Jonty Rhodes proved what could be done with a nation fully behind you, and the chokers tag proves once again how a divided nation can affect a players psyche and morale.The politics mixes with sport and psyche on such a level that it affects everything we say …. and to an extent do. And affirmative action, quotas, lack of political insight manifests itself in everything that is South African cricket.

Will we get out of this morass that we find ourselves in? I believe we will … AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla are two very capable individuals who appeal to the core of Southafricanism (yes, I think that should be a word) – but I doubt that they will be able to pull us through. As decent as they are, I donot think that either has the charisma to pull us through this one. But I do believe that they will lay the foundations of what we need to go through. We need someone who is an in-your-face-street fighter. Someone who has the guts to stand up administrators and politicians alike. Someone who says it as it is.

I believe it is that person that will take South Africa to the next World Cup Trophy.

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