While South Africa’s Test squad are negotiating their way through an obstacle course of injuries on the India tour, Cricket South Africa is facing obstruction from within its own ranks with regards to its transformation policy.
A group of black African cricketers calling themselves Black Cricketers in Unity, have asked CSA to address their concerns over their treatment in national squads, claiming they are mostly being used as drinks carriers. The group has also questioned CSA’s commitment to rebalancing the racial divisions caused by South Africa’s Apartheid past.
The group sent a letter to CSA on Monday detailing their unhappiness at being included in squads but not starting XIs. The players claim they are “sick and tired” of not being included in playing XIs and state, “If we are not ready for international cricket, stop picking us.” CSA’s chief executive Haroon Lorgat and president Norman Arendse told the Cape Argus that the issue will be discussed before November 21.
The letter was prompted by the case of Khaya Zondo, who was called up to the T20 and ODI sides in India, where he did not play a game. Zondo was the reserve batsman in the squad and would only have got a chance through injury to another player. However, when JP Duminy was injured, Dean Elgar was called up as cover and played ahead of Zondo in the final ODI. Zondo told Sports 24 he had seen reports of the letter but refused to discuss it publicly.
The letter also made mention of Aaron Phangiso, who traveled through the 2015 World Cup without playing a match; Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has been overlooked for the ODI side despite strong performances in the domestic one-day competition; and Thami Tsolekile, who was centrally contracted as Mark Boucher’s replacement but did not play a single Test despite being assured he would feature in the 2012-13 home series against New Zealand and Pakistan.
CSA’s transformation policy has been in the headlines throughout the year and came to a head at the 2015 World Cup semi-final. Vernon Philander, who was struggling with injury, replaced an in-form Kyle Abbott. At the time, South Africa’s coach, Russell Domingo, and captain, AB de Villiers, had met with Lorgat who reminded them to “properly consider the best XI bearing in mind the transformation guidelines.”
In the immediate aftermath of that match, CSA announced revised quotas at domestic level, which required at least six players of colour in every franchise team with at least two black Africans.
In May, CSA confirmed its transformation policy to parliament and confirmed the “specific focus on increasing black African players.” Since then, South Africa have fielded at least one black African player in every match, including in Test matches where only seven black Africans had earned a cap since readmission. The latest is Kagiso Rabada, whose rise from Under-19 World Cup hero to international cricketer in the space of a year is seen as a victory for transformation.
Other black African players who have represented South Africa recently include Temba Bavuma, who is part of the current Test squad to India, and Eddie Leie, who was in the T20 squad and is in contention for a World T20 squad spot. It is not known whether Bavuma, Leie or Rabada have put their names to the letter.