FRIDAY BRIEFING | Under The Pump: Cricket’s Reckoning With Race And History

The gentlemen’s game, as cricket is lovingly referred to by its many millions of supporters, has gone through a turbulent time in South Africa recently.

Allegations of crude and what seems like systemic racism have rocked a sport that has traditionally blazed a non-racial trail since 1991, when the country was readmitted to the national fold.

Whereas rugby – historically used by the Afrikaner nationalists to exclude and demonstrate their power and dominance – initially battled to make the great leap forward, cricket was seemingly the sport that embraced change and diversity. Not anymore.

Rugby, with the world-champion Springboks magnificently led by Siya Kolisi, has come to represent a diverse nation comfortable with itself and revelling in the opportunities that acceptance and understanding bring. Cricket, however, seems to have gone the opposite direction, where black and coloured players seemingly continues to battle racism and discrimination.

Of course, cricket, like rugby, has its roots in British Empire, during a time in which those sports were used to Anglicise and to shape good subjects in service of the Mother Country.

It’s a complex history, and despite the Proteas’ good wins over India, the sport is navigating tricky waters.

In this week’s Friday Briefing, News24 sports editor Lloyd Burnard writes about the Mark Boucher saga, while his deputy Sibusiso Mjikeliso explains why players remained quiet, rather than speak up. And historian Dr Dean Allen, author of Empire, War & Cricket in South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein, explains the sport’s context.

CSA’s balancing act between exercising urgency and care in Boucher case

Cricket South Africa will have to walk a tightrope and take its time into its enquiry into Mark Boucher, making sure that it prioritises being accurate and fair above being fast. However there are also dangers in stretching it out indefinitely, writes Lloyd Burnard. 

Learn from history and bat away the racism

The issues of sport and racism we experience today stem from the early days of colonialism and the first cricket tours, writes Dean Allen and if the SJN hearings are to achieve anything at this juncture then learning the lessons from history is imperative

Why it’s taken so long for cricketers to open up and why we cannot victim blame

For the first time, cricket had an open platform in which people could speak candidly about their experiences of discrimination in the game, which partly explains why they were silent for so long, writes Sibusiso Mjikeliso.


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