EDITORIAL: Graeme Smith should have ensured that black players feel welcome in the Proteas

By Editorial

Inspired by Lungi Ngidi’s view that the Proteas team should discuss the Black Lives Matter issue, a number of former black players have voiced their unhappiness in recent weeks over how they were treated in the South African team and at franchise or provincial level.

Legendary fast bowler Makhaya Ntini’s testimony in a TV interview about how lonely he felt in the Proteas set-up laid bare the uncomfortable environment he experienced.

Cricket SA was not convincing in their initial responses, with the Solidarity Cup behind closed doors in Centurion seeing director of cricket Graeme Smith “taking a knee” alongside Ntini and all players and coaches involved before the start of play.

The former black players, though, wanted to be heard by the authorities, and they were eventually given their chance when CSA convened a Zoom meeting last Sunday.

True to form, the governing body shot themselves in the foot by ordering Smith, Boucher and Faul to sit out of the meeting as they felt the players should be able to speak openly.

But the players wanted to address that trio directly, as they are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Proteas team and the organisation as a whole.

Smith got stuck in by holding his own press conference at the weekend, explaining the reasons for his absence from the players’ meeting.

It was a bit odd to hear him say he was “surprised” by some of the revelations from the past players, considering that he was such a prominent leadership figure of the Proteas from 2003 until 2014.

Considering South Africa’s fractured sporting history, one would have expected Smith to be more conscious and sensitive to ensuring that black players were made to feel welcome in the team environment.

But the likes of Ntini and Ashwell Prince have stated that it was not the case at times, and it will require some serious introspection from Smith and the current CSA bosses to address these concerns going forward.

As he did with those broad shoulders on the pitch, let’s hope Smith can finally get all cricket stakeholders around the table and take decisive action off the field to make the sport genuinely inclusive.

The Star

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