Cape Town - Imagine you are an 18-year-old Paul Adams… The left-arm wrist-spinner had been thrust into the international spotlight less than a year out of matric when he was picked against England in December 1995.
His selection at St George’s Park came after a stunning exhibition of bowling when he bamboozled the English batsmen for South Africa A in Kimberley, taking nine wickets in the match with his unique action that hadn’t been seen before by the tourists.
The Grassy Park and Plumstead High product – who had also honed his skills at local clubs Blue Bells and St Augustine’s – had made such an impact that he ended up playing 45 Tests and 24 one-day internationals for his country up to 2004.
But for most of that time, especially during the 1990s, Adams would have been subjected to some vile forms of racism, and as a youngster and naturally shy guy, he wasn’t going to upset the apple cart.
The crassest of that would be the infamous team song whenever the South Africans won a match, and he would be called “brown sh*t”…
Current Proteas coach Mark Boucher was the subject of a disciplinary hearing emanating from Cricket SA’s Social Justice and Nation Building hearings into racism and discrimination in the sport, and a large part of that was due to Adams’ testimony about the “brown sh*t” saga.
But it also had to do with former assistant coach Enoch Nkwe and his concerns about how he was treated by Boucher, as well as how the ex-wicketkeeper had handled the Black Lives Matter situation within the team.
Cricket SA’s case fell flat when Adams and Nkwe opted not to testify in Boucher’s hearing – and it was their right to do so – and the governing body chose to withdraw the charges against him last week.
But in some quarters of the cricket fraternity, the reaction to that decision has been so gleeful that you might think CSA’s withdrawal means that Boucher had been cleared of the racism charges… which is not the case.
While, to his credit, he has apologised for his role in the team song, it doesn’t mean that he has been exonerated.
Boucher wrote in his apology that “I have listened to the hurt some of my former teammates felt, the feeling of exclusion and some totally unacceptable and inappropriate examples of alleged racism that they endured.
“I apologise unreservedly for any offensive conduct, real or perceived, that has been attributed to me. We, the team, coaching staff, selectors and CSA, during the period in question, should have been more sensitive and created an environment where all members of the team could raise and talk about these issues without allowing them to fester, as they clearly have. I was a young man, barely out of my teens. In hindsight, we were all naive; the players, the coaches, the management.”
But that doesn’t excuse the behaviour by Boucher and the rest of the white players towards their black teammates. It also doesn’t mean that blaming Cricket SA for not educating the players sufficiently on these issues in the past, and what looked like an attempt by the current board to use Adams to get rid of Boucher, wishes away what really happened in those change-rooms.
You can forgive, but it should never be forgotten that Adams was a victim of racism in the Proteas team, with Boucher partly responsible for that…