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Skin vs Skill


Quota_cricket_race_racistHere we go again: quotas are the topic of the day after an article was published by SA Cricket Magazine.

According to Die Burger, black players sent a letter to Cricket South Africa describing their disappointment with how they are used in the national team when selected. Although they are picked for the national side, they hardly make it into the starting XI but are only good enough to be the water carriers.

Undoubtedly, the letter was generated by Khaya Zondo’s selection into the national side. When JP Duminy got injured, South Africa flew Dean Elgar from South Africa to India while Zondo was waiting in the wings the whole time.

According to former Zimbabwean cricketer, Neil Johnson, the decision made by CSA could make a cricketer feel as though he was chosen just to achieve a target. Still, that idea contradicts the main reason for Zondo’s selection. Although Quinton de Kock played the better innings, Zondo showed his abilities for South Africa A on Indian soil.

Let’s look at the T20I games South Africa won 2-0 (since the final day was rained out). In the post-match presentation, MS Dhoni was asked what team he would have played that day. Unfortunately, skipper Faf du Plessis was not asked this question. So you can’t tell whether certain players would have been given game time or not. South Africa had already won the series, so no harm would have been done had Zondo played.

South Africa won the ODI Elgar featured in, but reactions differ. Former Zimbabwean cricketer Pommie Mbangwa asked the Inside Edge panel if South Africa winning that match changes anything. This goes two ways: whether South Africa had won or not, Zondo should have been selected in the starting XI; but no, let’s forget it because South Africa won. Thing is, we only know the outcome Elgar featured in and not the one Zondo would have featured in.

Most importantly, South Africans and foreign cricket followers were not shy in voicing their opinions when the article was published. There was a lot of backlash instead of solutions. Although many grasped the point of the message conveyed in the letter, others just ran their mouths on a topic they didn’t know much about.

Sadly, the quota debate always turns racial. The tones of white and black South Africans can send shivers down your spine. It’s impossible to ignore it, but let’s applaud those who know how to be objective.

It’s appalling that a few followers of the game don’t even know who Zondo is, and that was their first mistake. They had the audacity to comment about someone they’ve never seen play, someone they don’t even know. Moreover, it was said that impatient players shouldn’t blame others because they are not good enough and that they want positions they don’t deserve.

Zondo would have fit perfectly in Duminy’s place. He finishes the series and acts as an anchor for his franchise, the Sunfoil Dolphins, when they are in trouble. Again, his selection was based on his performances for the SA A side.


What do quotas really mean for black players? Every black player could eventually be labelled as a quota player. In the case of Zondo, not playing in India made it seem like he was selected to fill a quota instead of being chosen based on merit.

Yes, quotas were introduced to solve the sins of the past, but instead, they are creating new ones. Quotas were supposed to mirror society, not destroy it. They were supposed to please both parties, but no one’s happy. Cricket development and transformation is failing because only a handful of success stories do exist – Makhaya Ntini and Kagiso Rabada.

Rabada is not a quota player, but a merit player. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, he will be judged by his skin, not his skill.

This issue has also allowed followers of the game to comment on other issues surrounding selection in the South African camp. For starters, David Miller hasn’t been in great form and should have been dropped a long time ago. In fact, he should have been dropped in India and Zondo given a chance to play.

Supporters will never understand why Vernon Philander was chosen to play in the Cricket World Cup final instead of Kyle Abbott. Nor will they comprehend Aaron Phangiso being the only cricketer in the squad who didn’t play in the World Cup. Again, it becomes a matter involving quotas.

There’s a handful of quota upsets and, with this in mind, it doesn’t seem like Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has been in sublime form for his franchise, will ever play for his country again. Some would say Phangiso is slowly being squeezed out of the national side.

It’s difficult not to mention South Africa’s Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula who has been under scrutiny for ‘neglecting’ South African hockey for a hip hop gig. So if those who implemented ‘aggressive transformation’ don’t come forward when their plans go south, then cricketers and followers of the game will never find peace.

Hopefully these issues will be solved while avoiding the more extreme solution some followers call for, which proper cricket supporters would oppose. Banning cricket, the national South African cricket team or putting sanctions would be taking it a little too far. Besides, the South African Cricketers Association and the ICC would not let this happen. Cricket is not just a sport, it’s a livelihood.


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Thobeka ‘Beks’ Ngema. A cricket and football blogger who fell in love with both sports but event...

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