SJN Hearings: Black players deserve the same chances as their white counterparts, says Aaron Phangiso
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JOHANNESBURG – Aaron Phangiso told Cricket SA’s Social Justice and Nation Building inquiry that young black players in South African cricket have been let down by black officials who occupied senior positions in the sport.
Speaking on Tuesday, Phangiso, 37, who played 21 One-Day and 16 T20 Internationals, explained how he was constantly given the same answer by captains, coaches and selectors, when he asked why he wasn’t starting more matches for the Proteas.
“It was always, 'your time will come, just wait your turn,'” Phangiso told the hearings on Tuesday. Asked by Advocate Fumisa Nqele, what recourse he had when asking why he wasn't picked, Phangiso said all he could do was ask the captain, the coach or a selector.
“I would have an informal chat with the captain, and he’d say it was a selection decision. I’d talk to the coach, the same thing. Then I’d talk to a selector and it would be a case of him telling me, ‘that is was the plan for the game,’ and from there, there is no one else you can talk to,” Phangiso said.
He highlighted former national selection convenor, Linda Zondi, saying he’d expected more from Zondi, given his background, and the fact that Phangiso believed he had an understanding of how difficult it was for black players trying to succeed in the system. “There are people that have an opportunity to make change, but when they get into these positions; as selectors or coaches, positions that have influence, then they change. When black Africans are put into these positions, sometimes they are letting us down. Instead of fighting for the right cause they are fighting to hold onto their own position.”
The SJN project was established last year after a call by Lungi Ngidi for the Proteas to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, exposed an undercurrent of racism within South African cricket.
Phangiso was picked for three Proteas world cup squads - the two T20 tournaments in Bangladesh in 2014 and in India in 2016 and the 50 over competition held in Australasia in 2015. Across those three competitions he played just two matches, winning a man of the match award in one game in 2016. He held up the trophy for the commissioners on Tuesday as he took them through his submission.
“In the subcontinent, is where spinners are successful,” said Phangiso, but added that South Africa had always relied on fast bowlers regardless of where the team played. At the 2016 tournament, held in India, Phangiso sat out the first couple of matches, and he explained how he watched as the Proteas’ opponents adapted their styles to suit conditions, but the South Africans didn’t. “We played our first game against England, and they used three spinners, even Joe Root, who is a part-timer bowled, we only had Imran Tahir, and JP Duminy.”
Phangiso also pointed out that despite he and Tahir having had success when playing in the same side at the Lions, it was a strategy that was never mimicked at international level. “It was always Imran, he was their blanket, if I asked why I wasn't playing, I was told, ‘we are going with Imran.’ I was told to wait my turn.”
Phangiso said going to the 2015 World Cup as the only black African player was extremely difficult. “The public just don’t understand. Of course I was happy to go to the World Cup, but it is extremely difficult as the only black African player, it was tough. The whole tournament, I got no game time, and I was getting the same excuses; ‘ we are going with Imran.’”
“It was disappointing, you feel you let your family down and then I get calls from the media asking how I feel...you get into a mental state, where, I don’t want to call it depression, but you start to doubt yourself.”
Phangiso said black players didn’t get the same level of support as their white counterparts. “You look at Jacques Kallis, obviously a great player, but when he started he wasn’t averaging that much, but he was given the opportunity and look at the player he became."
"Many of us didn’t get those chances; we play one game and then we are benched, and when we look again, some other player has come in and starts getting a chance in front of us.”
Phangiso said it wasn’t enough to have Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma in prominent positions now.
“It can’t be a case of ‘there is Temba now, he is captain,’ blacks must just keep quiet. Temba musn’t be a disguise.”
“You know, for black African players not (named) Kagiso Rabada or Temba Bavuma, even now, nothing has changed,” Phangiso remarked.
The hearings will continue on Thursday.