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Cricket, race relations bedfellows ever since West Indies were ’honorary whites’ in SA

Proteas batsman Quinton de Kock makes a gesture after scoring a century against the West Indies during their recent Test series. Picture: Randy Brooks/AFP

Proteas batsman Quinton de Kock makes a gesture after scoring a century against the West Indies during their recent Test series. Picture: Randy Brooks/AFP

Published Oct 27, 2021


Dubai - Ever since Quinton de Kock decided to take a stand by not taking a knee, I have been asked numerous times by colleagues from all around the world whether other South African national sporting teams have taken the knee and whether they too will be forced to follow suit after Cricket SA instructed the Proteas Men's team here at the T20 World Cup.

ALSO READ: CONFIRMED: Quinton de Kock withdraws from Proteas T20 World Cup match over ’having to take the knee’

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The Springboks and Bafana Bafana - the nation's two other major sporting teams - have of course not and neither have their respective federations Saru and Safa issued any form of a directive.

The fact that the Springboks and Bafana have not taken a knee - or any other form of stand against racism - is of course wrong. They both have had high-profile fixtures with the Boks playing the British and Irish Lions and a Rugby Championship series, while Bafana have been involved in Fifa World Cup qualifiers to showcase their solitary.

So why has cricket opted for this route?

South African cricket and politics, and subsequently the battle against racist ideologies, are intertwined at its core.

ALSO READ: Quinton de Kock saga: Proteas’ education on Black Lives Matter needs more than CSA directive

Ever since former South African Primer Minister John Vorster took a decision that England may not tour South Africa with the Cape Town-born coloured all-rounder Basil D'Oliviera in 1968 as part of their squad, cricket and race relations have been bedfellows.

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Vorster's decision, of course, had a tidal wave effect with South Africa plunged into two decades of sporting isolation across codes.

But that was only the beginning. During those years of isolation, the white-controlled South African Cricket Union under the watch of Dr Ali Bacher organised "rebel tours" luring international teams from England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Australia to compete with the "Springboks" during the heart of Apartheid.

The West Indies tours were particularly galling with the black players from the Caribbean being termed "honoury whites" whilst in South Africa in order for them to stay at the various whites-only hotels and enjoy the luxuries our land had to offer.

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West Indies legends Sir Viv Richards and Michael Holding wanted no part of such tomfoolery.

All the West Indian players who accepted the vast sums of money to tour South Africa were banned for life by their respective boards, and treated like pariahs back in their own country.

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Of course the cricket landscape has changed quite dramatically since with De Kock and West Indies captain Kieron Pollard now teammates at the Mumbai Indians.

And De Kock may not even be knowledgeable about South African cricket's chequered history in regards to race relations.

But Pollard, who was not aware of his Mumbai Indians' teammate's objection to taking the knee, certainly believes it boils down to education.

"Each and everyone has their own opinions on it, but as I've always said, once you're educated and you understand, we will understand you doing it, but I think education sort of is the key, and we don't want anyone doing it for us in solitude or to feel sorry for us."

The road ahead for Cricket SA remains littered with pot-holes, particularly with the Social Nation and Justice hearings still underway where black ex-players and coaches have shared their experiences and trauma they suffered even after unity was achieved in 1991.

Cricket, and particularly South African cricket, has a moral duty to tackle racism and support initiatives that does. And if players like De Kock does not understand the reasons for its necessity, it then needs to be explained to him because it is long overdue.