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South Africa's transformation policy gives merit the go by
by Partab Ramchand
Mar 18, 2008
It’s never a healthy augury to start a tour of India – a tough one at the best of times – on a controversial note. But the South Africans land in this country with opinion clearly divided within the team on Cricket South Africa's transformation policy which has once again cast its shadow and leaves one wondering how it will affect the performance of the touring squad.

The 14-man squad has six non-white players in Robin Peterson, Charl Langeveldt, Makhaya Ntini, Hashim Amla, Ashwell Prince and Jean-Paul Duminy. This is in keeping with CSA’s policy of making the team more racially representative.

Last month South African cricket was mired in controversy when CSA president Norman Arendse refused to approve the squad originally chosen for the tour of Bangladesh which included only four black players before Peterson replaced Paul Harris who had to undergo surgery. That squad was eventually announced by CSA chief executive Gerald Majola, leading to conflict between him and Arendse. The dispute was resolved only when a CSA extraordinary general council meeting called on the two officials to resolve their differences and work out a strategy together to make the South African team more racially representative

For the tour of India South African selectors have made two changes to their attack with swing bowler Langeveldt, who has played six Tests, replacing Andre Nel a veteran of 34 Tests, while left arm spinner Harris returns after missing the two Tests in Bangladesh. Fellow left-armer Peterson, who took his first five-wicket haul against Bangladesh in Chittagong, retains his place ahead of off-spinner Johan Botha and will be back-up to Harris.

CSA’s transformation policy has clearly divided the cricketing community for plainly put it gives merit the go by. It is not unlike the reservation policy in India and that has had more than its share of controversy over the years. Since South Africa’s return to international cricket in 1991 reports would have the cricketing world believe that the barriers have been lifted and coloured players have as much opportunity to force their way into the national squad as whites. Then why have this sort of discrimination that will obviously weaken the team say opponents of this policy. It would not be out of place to mention that Kevin Pietersen left his native South Africa to seek greener pastures in England because he felt he was getting a raw deal as a result of the quota system.

The player who seems to be most affected now is Nel who has taken 119 wickets in Tests. Clearly on past record and current form he should have been a certainty in the squad. But after performing very well in Bangladesh he has been replaced by Langeveldt for the tour of India. The temperamental Nel known both for his outrageous behaviour on the cricket field and his outstanding fast bowling was so devastated by his omission that he was contemplating leaving international cricket. Nel who has never toured India had to be carefully spoken to in an effort to keep him from taking any drastic action.

Team manager Logan Naidoo who is also CSA’s deputy president confirmed Nel had lost his place because of the colour of his skin. ``We have to try to select a team that can be the best in the world but we must at the same time look at transformation targets,’’ he is quoted to have said. This is clearly a contradiction. No team can have the best possible squad if it has a reservation policy based on colour and not on merit. ``Andre has been the unfortunate player to be on the receiving end this time around. We sympathize with him for what has happened,’’ Naidoo said. The sympathy obviously is not enough for it involves the career of a professional cricketer and a highly successful one at that. If this contentious policy is continued CSA could have a real problem on its hands.

Arendse on his part just washed his hands off the issue of selection. ``You must ask the selectors about Andre Nel as they are the ones who selected the squad. The point is the selectors’ hands are obviously tied when there is this controversial directive from the CSA. The sooner an amicable solution is found to this vexed question the better it will be for South African cricket.

 
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