JOHANNESBURG – The controversy in South African cricket that has exploded around transformation is part of a much broader conversation that needs to be had about the unequal society that exists in the country, believes star fast bowler Kagiso Rabada.
The 25-year-old has paid close attention to the conversations that have taken place about race and specifically the claims by black players that they’d been mistreated in the sport, describing the current period as “definitely a controversial time in South African cricket”.
“The country is divided and the majority of the country has suffered injustice, especially economically and that needs to change,” said Rabada.
Listening to the troubling stories from Makhaya Ntini and Ashwell Prince in the last few weeks has placed a spotlight on a sport that for most of the last 29 years since the country’s return from sporting isolation has put forth a unified front. What the last few weeks have shown is that below the surface there were deep-lying issues that were ignored.
Rabada wants to be part of a process of renewal, but admits he’s not sure what that role can be away from the cricket field. “From the perspective of an ideal, South Africa needs to become a fairer country,” he said.
“We need to allow a system that caters for all people in the country. I continue to enjoy playing my cricket, looking to improve my game, play my game, play my part in the team winning. But off the field I certainly feel that I can play a role technically, although I’m not sure how I want to try and get solutions.”
From a cricket perspective, Rabada said there needs to be sound leadership from the sport’s administrators as Cricket SA try to resolve the problems highlighted recently by former players. “There needs to be a solution, to reach a middle ground, that’s the most important thing, otherwise it’s just going to keep happening. I don’t think people will talk from a place where they don’t really connect to what they are saying.
“Ultimately, this will test the leadership of the country in order to reach the middle ground. That is the whole point of governance. Looking forward, structures will need to be put in place to mediate the situation.”
Cricket SA has created a Social Justice and Nation Building initiative that includes the appointment of a Transformation Ombudsman and the creation of ‘restoration fund’. However that initiative hasn’t found favour with a group of 40 black coaches and former players – including Prince, Ntini and Robin Peterson – who feel that CSA don’t “understand the challenges faced by black players within the system,” and they’re “not confident that (CSA) can provide a solution that seeks to address them”.
“I’m not in any leadership position formally,” said Rabada. “What I can do is promote a message that includes all South Africans to receive the fairest treatment as possible, because I grew up in different circumstances.”
Rabada, who made his international debut nearly six years ago, said he has not experienced the kind of mistreatment suffered by predecessors who wore the Proteas shirt.
“If my performances were good and I wasn’t getting the opportunities, perhaps I’d have a different outlook. I’m not sure that had I played in that era, I would have got the opportunities that I’ve had. I was blessed to get an opportunity and I’ve been allowed to thrive and with my mentality that helped me.
“In my mind, I believe if you’re good enough to play, then you play.”
Rabada will head to the UAE in 10 days’ time to play in this year’s Indian Premier League, which will be his first competitive action since February.