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Twenty years on, attitudes unchanged
There are two sides to the coin. In truth, 1991 was a non-event for the black man in South Africa. Two decades in international cricket is a nice milestone but I don't think attitudes have changed. Let me explain.
I do agree that in these 20 years, unification has created opportunities for the aspiring black cricketer here. But things haven't changed as much as the world would like to believe. There has been some development, for sure. Lots of schools meant only for black children are now providing cricket gear, though the grounds are actually too small for a proper game. Initially, even this small step proved tough. Black children weren't allowed in most of the schools where cricket was played, since most were meant only for whites. There have been, and will be, trying times for blacks and people of colour who try to make it big in this sport. This is a disappointing fact considering South Africa has been back playing top-flight cricket for 20 years.
The general sentiment is that no black man in a cricket team - be it at the school, province or national level - is there on merit. There is always the insinuation that the black cricketer is only filling the transformation quota. You must understand I am not making every white man wear the same hat, but this is the general sentiment. At the national level the quotas don't exist any more, and some black players, and players of colour, are there on grounds of performance alone.
But cricket is so popular here there should be many, many more blacks taking to the game, going by the demographics. How does one bring that about? The transformation quotas still being implemented at the provincial and school levels may help level the field. Since it is unlikely the soul of the white man will change overnight, how does one make the sport accessible to more black people? How does one make it a viable career option? This is the biggest challenge ahead of us. Things are changing slowly. Most of those in charge in the provinces are now black, and I hope that's a start. Help is needed. The progress of the black player in these two decades has been unsatisfactory.
(Magiet became South Africa cricket's first non-white convenor of selectors in 1999. During SA's period of isolation and rebel tours, he had given up watching cricket. He served as national selector after unity was achieved between the mixed-race South African Cricket Board and the white South African Cricket Union in 1991. Magiet spoke to Partha Bhaduri)
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