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Thread: Article by political commentator RW Johnson in South Africa's Business Day

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    Article about cricket by political commentator RW Johnson in SA's Business Day

    An article was published in South Africa's Business Day last week, written by RW Johnson, a relatively controversial political commentator. It makes some good points, but he is also wrong on some other things.


    Ignore foolish demand for demographic representivity in cricket

    RW JOHNSON

    Published:2012/05/10 09:20:14 AM

    WHEN Jack Cheetham was about to lead the South African cricket team to Australia in 1951 there was some discussion about the fact that the Queen always turned out to greet visiting sides at Lords and it would accordingly be nice if the prime minister, Dr DF Malan, gave the team a South African send-off.

    Malan graciously agreed and the team traipsed off to Groote Schuur for tea. Everything went well until just before the end when Malan turned to the team and said he really hoped they’d enjoyed visiting SA. The whole team was English-speaking and Malan had imagined they were an English touring side.

    Not many years later, when HF Verwoerd was in power, one of his ministers mentioned that things had reached a very tense stage in a SA v England Test. "Yes, but who’s doing best", he replied, "our English or their English?"

    The point of both stories being that at that time cricket was very much the game of white English-speakers: for apartheid reasons men such as Basil d’Oliveira were excluded and Afrikaners were a rarity in the game.

    This is very much to the point in thinking about the situation today — and it is why both the new boss of South African cricket, Willie Basson, and your esteemed columnist, Telford Vice, are wrong just to say that cricket must represent national demographics and thus its future must be black.

    Instead, it must represent the demographics of those who play the game. There is, after all, no "ought" about this. One can’t tell black South Africans that they "ought" to play cricket or hockey instead of soccer so that our hockey or cricket team looks more representative. People choose their own sports and they have every right to do so. Almost every Russian world chess champion has been Jewish and even when the Russians lost it was to Bobby Fischer, another Jew — but no one thinks that this failure to mirror world demography lessens the prestige of the world champions.

    Similarly, the West African diaspora wins all the sprints in athletics and East Africans win most of the rest: a white face is a rarity now in such events — but that in no way undermines the winners’ achievements. This is just the way it is. If you don’t like it, get over it.

    To get back to cricket. The key to understanding its sociology is that just as our national team was thrown open to all races, the cricketers of colour who were up for selection found themselves competing with exceptionally talented Afrikaners. Their movement into cricket had already been visible in the isolation years — think of Kepler Wessels, Adrian Kuiper, Garth le Roux and Corrie van Zyl — but re-entry coincided with the arrival of such giants of the game as Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis, Hansie Cronje and Fanie de Villiers.

    Since then this movement has grown further. How about the following all-Afrikaans team today: Jacques Rudolph, Morne van Wyk, AB de Villiers, Kallis, Faf du Plessis, Heino Kuhn, Albie Morkel, Johan Botha, Dale Steyn, Marchant de Lange, Morne Morkel, Juan (Rusty) Theron (12th man).

    I think that unit — let’s call it the De La Rey XI — could whip almost any Test team in the world.

    If we were to put that team up against another South African XI, the guts of the team would be coloured: JP Duminy, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander, Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince, Robin Peterson, Farhaan Behardien, Justin Ontong — to which one could add two Asians (Imran Tahir and Hashim Amla) and an African (Lonwabo Tsotsobe). That too would be an extremely formidable team, we’ll call it the Basil d’Oliveira XI.

    And neither one has a single white English-speaker in it. In fact, if you look at our normal Test team you realise that Grae me Smith is the last of what used to be the completely dominant anglo group making up our team. But we couldn’t put a decent team in the field made up from that group now — we could add Mark Boucher, David Miller, Colin Ingram and Richard Levi, but that’s it.

    One of the reasons, of course, is that so many who might be in that team — Andrew Strauss, Matthew Prior, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter, Jade Dernbach — are now wearing England colours while other South Africans are cropping up in many international teams. If we could put that lot together — the Sout ie XI — it would also make a fine team. There was a time when South African teams used Afrikaans as a sort of secret language on the pitch. Today, too many of the opposition can understand it for that to be safe.

    If I had to bet on the future, I wouldn’t imagine it to be black. Whites may be shrinking as a group but there are still far more of them than, say, New Zealanders, who can put out a fair team. But there are now more coloureds than whites and clearly they are going to provide more and more of our cricketers (and rugby players). Cricket talent is a mixture of spontaneous schoolboy enthusiasm and cricket schools.

    Based on that, the group I would expect to produce more and more Proteas would be Asians: they love cricket and increasingly attend good cricket schools. And they are prominent in cricket teams all over, not just in the sub-continent but in Canada, Kenya and, increasingly, in England. Of course, it would be marvellous if we had lots of good African cricketers coming through too but my guess is that it will take time, just as it did for white Afrikaners.

    In the meantime we should ignore the foolish demand for demographic representivity. The whole country supports the Proteas because it knows they are picked on merit. No group feels its players are excluded from selection. Our team is already racially mixed; is becoming more so; and is possibly the best in the world. That’s already a lot to be proud of.
    Last edited by Marius; 14-05-2012 at 08:03 AM.

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    And the letter I wrote to the newspaper in reaction:


    LETTER: Off-colour argument

    Published:2012/05/14 08:40:46 AM

    RW Johnson is being disingenuous by claiming that white English-speaking South Africans are becoming a rarity in South African cricket (Ignore foolish demand for demographic representivity in cricket, May 10). To begin with, neither Jacques Kallis nor Dale Steyn are Afrikaners. Mr Johnson would do well to remember that an Afrikaans name does not an Afrikaner make. He makes the same mistake by listing Garth le Roux as an Afrikaner.

    One can thus make the argument that arguably the best batsman in the world (Kallis) and the best fast bowler in the world (Steyn) are white English-speaking South Africans.

    Mr Johnson also claims that it would be difficult to scrape together a quality XI of white English-speakers who reside in this country. He forgets the likes of Stephen Cook, who holds the record for the highest score by a South African batsman, anywhere; Dane Vilas, who unfathomably has not received a Cricket SA contract yet; Paul Harris, who if it were not for the leg-spinning mystery of Imran Tahir would still be SA’s first-choice Test spinner; and veteran Neil McKenzie. Two other young players from McKenzie’s team, the Lions, Chris Morris and Quinton de Kock show promise, and if SA had bolder selectors these youngsters may already have had national colours by now.

    However, Mr Johnson is right on the point that transformation cannot be forced. It is up to the Department of Sport and Recreation to ensure that children in underserved townships and rural areas have access to cricket fields and equipment. This will ensure that a cricket culture becomes instilled in areas where it has not traditionally been, and ensure that it becomes a sustainable sport among the black community.

    The Department of Basic Education should accept responsibility for this. Outside the formerly white Model C schools, school sport has virtually collapsed. There needs to be a concerted effort to bring back a sporting culture in all our schools, ensuring that our strong sporting traditions are preserved and strengthened.

    Mr Johnson also needs to forget his obsession with race. I for one could not care whether the entire national cricket XI was made up of blacks, white, coloureds, or Martians.

    As long as we win and stop choking at World Cups, I will be a happy cricket supporter.

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    Global Moderator Spark's Avatar
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    Good reply.
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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Spikey's Avatar
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    i read the reply before the article

    i should have just read the reply
    Indians can't bowl - Where has the rumour come from as I myself and many indian friends arwe competent fast bowlers ?

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    I must admit I'd always assumed Kallis was an Afrikaner, with the Francophone first name & his (I'm guessing) Hugenot surname. Although his middle name is the absolute epitome of Englishness, so maybe that was a clue I missed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoyBrumby View Post
    I must admit I'd always assumed Kallis was an Afrikaner, with the Francophone first name & his (I'm guessing) Hugenot surname. Although his middle name is the absolute epitome of Englishness, so maybe that was a clue I missed.
    If you hear him speak there is no doubt that he was raised speaking English.

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    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    Got as far as "That's just the way it is" in the article before giving up on it. Such a dire attitude, in any context.

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    South africa is a complex place to live in. In a fair world people get selected for what skills they bring to the table. Blacks, a race group i come from were denied alot of privillages. I had to work hard to overcome alot of the challenges. Truth is the goverment does not care about transformation. They only talk about it to appease voters. With the way things are going, we will never have more than 5 indeginous blacks in the team. Me as a young guy does not give a damn who plays aslong as we win. And contrary to popular believe from other sectors of society, majority of blacks do not believe that they entitled to anythn, it just happens that politicians have given us a believe tha thngs will be "Normal ASAP.

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    Rasimione reckons no more than 5 players, I think that's being wildly optimistic. I'd say no more than 1-3 for at least the medium term, simply due to economic & cultural factors. Cricket is an expensive game, without investment it will not take root. We had the transformation roadshows where pitches were laid & this and that but once the bus moves on to the next stop, where's the followup? There may be lots of kids player Baker's Mini Cricket or whatever but after that, where to? There's no club cricket of any note outside the Cape Town, Gauteng & Durban (and Durban's pretty wobbly at that). Whatever clubs there are, are at a pretty poor level anyway. Provincial cricket is poorly supported and weak.

    The myth is that these players are somehow being overlooked or ignored by the big bad racist franchises, when they actually don't exist. It's not that the talent isn't there, it's just that the talent is busy playing Rugby or Football. The current team actually represents the cricket playing population quite well I think. An affluent class educated by the elite schools (almost all the native black players come from these schools), followed by a good coloured Western Cape following and a smattering of Indian players.

    The fact is that cricket is firmly the #3 sport in SA behind Rugby & Football, both of which are far cheaper to play. 10-15 years ago, I'd say it was in a space where it could challenge Rugby but no more. Both Rugby & Football are also pick up & go games, it takes very little for them to take root. Cricket is niggly & technical, it needs for there to be a pre-existing passionate support base to drive it. That exists in the urban areas, in the elite schools, etc but I don't think it does in too many other places.

    The national sponsor is a cooking oil (no offense to them, they also sponsor the Dolphins & are my preferred cooking oil) and they can't be paying all that much, to be honest, considering the mess the CSA made of things, they're lucky they have sponsorship at all. The fact that the national team is so strong despite all this is actually pretty amazing.

    Those dynamics aren't going to change for a while and neither is the makeup of the national team.
    Last edited by nexxus; 20-05-2012 at 12:55 PM.



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