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Sat Aug 30 20:20:01 SAST 2014

Race debate with Mark Boucher

Firdose Moonda | 05 December, 2012 00:44
Firdose Moonda
Image by: The Times

Mark Boucher watched South Africa retain the world No1 Test ranking on his 36th birthday.

He celebrated it with gusto, having been part of the process leading up to the current period of domination. The system he was part of was finally operating at its optimum level.

Looking at the facts, it undoubtedly is. South Africa's Test record through the 2000s will be recorded as one of cricket's great eras.

Not only have they emerged victorious from successive tours to England and Australia in the last four years, they have not lost a series away in six years and were last defeated in a Test on the road in February 2010.

That streak speaks as much of the team's ability to adapt to different conditions as it does about the strength of character of the individuals involved and the quality of the system that developed them. I called that same system "shameful" for its inability to create a pipeline of black African players and its failure to field one in more than a year.

In light of the immense success of the current team, my argument was not popularly received. I took a lot of abuse but in the storm that is social media, Boucher engaged in a perfectly civil discussion with me and explained why he thought my criticism was invalid.

His point was purely about cricketing. The system has produced the finest team on the current circuit and he had a lot of support in that explanation.

My argument was holistic. The same system has snubbed the majority of the South African population by not fielding a black African player in a Test match for more than a year.

The debate, as I saw it, was whether being No1 in the world is all that matters, whether having a demographically representative team is all that matters, or whether some balance between the two would be better.

This week should make it obvious that the third is the ideal.

South Africa's current Test team could end up being one of the greats of our age. Graeme Smith is a candidate for the best captain of all time, Jacques Kallis is the most distinguished cricketer in the world, and Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn are masters of their respective trades.

There is no better unit in the game at the moment and for that there is much to celebrate. Many South Africans, including Boucher, are doing exactly that.

At the same time, we don't know how many other cricketers of their quality have never come through because of the wrongs of the past.

This is not a hypothesis; the reality is that there are fewer opportunities for black African cricketers. Reasons ranging from a lack of infrastructure to a lack of progressive mindsets have stalled transformation.

To ignore that the system is failing would be as much of a mistake as to ignore its many glorious and continuing achievements. I think Boucher would agree.

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Sat Aug 30 20:20:01 SAST 2014 ::