Lungi Ngidi celebrates with his Proteas teammates after taking the wicket of Australia's Nathan Lyon during the second Test. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Lungi Ngidi turns and shakes hands with Vernon Philander. The latter wears the look of the experienced old pro, a smirk crosses his lips and though he’s wearing those large sunglasses beloved of sportsmen, the look on his face is clear; admiration and respect for his young teammate’s role in the second Test against Australia.

To the left of the pair walks Keshav Maharaj, his face is harder to read, it’s stern.

He is shaking hands with one of South African sport’s biggest stars, who while shaking Maharaj’s hand with his right, is patting him on the head with his left. Kagiso Rabada has a ‘job done’ look on his face, tongue poking out and while he is the second youngest of the quartet, from that picture he looks like their leader; tall and broad shouldered, the boss.

It is a most powerful image, not just in a sporting sense, but a much broader social sense for South Africa, too.

Four black sportsmen, who’d just dominated Australia.

In 1970, the last time South Africa beat Australia in a Test series on home soil, when the national side was made up of players picked from a minority of South Africans, it would not have been thought possible, that such an image would exist in South African sport.

But there it is, in living colour.

It is a tribute to their remarkable talent and work ethic but it is an image for which Cricket South Africa (CSA) deserves praise, too.

It’s been easy to bash the federation these past few months, for its inability to set up a T20 competition, the administrative shenanigans taking place in offices, the short-sightedness of two of its officials posing with ticket-holders at St George’s Park, wearing masks in a juvenile and morally bankrupt attempt to poke fun at an Australian player.

But CSA are also getting things right in providing opportunities for the majority of people in the country to play and engage with its sport.

Its national team is not hidden from view like the rugby one - the Proteas’ home internationals are available on free to air TV.

That helps with its various development initiatives in previously disadvantaged areas.

CSA has been able to recognise the shortcomings in its development programmes and lately have utilised a more scientific approach, that encompasses community development and engenders social upliftment.

It is by no means perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than it once was.

The big criticism remains that the best black players in the country need to be developed through attending private schools, and that until CSA produces a player from a previously disadvantaged area through the ranks and into the national side, true development has not happened.

And it’s an issue that bears acknowledgement by those tasked with developing the game.

But the initiatives in place now and which are being widened, will make that a reality in the not too distant future.

For now the symbolism contained in that image, which Ngidi shared on twitter on Monday, is very powerful.

It speaks to where the national cricket team has come and where it is going. It speaks to South Africa, about the talent available here, the hard work needed to refine that talent and the success that can be achieved, regardless of shape, size or skin colour.

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