South African Cricket – To make sense, monitoring the PPL process must go beyond Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher

The relationship of South African cricket with race does not begin or end with Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher. The couple was on the lookout for a storm sparked by a report on social justice and nation-building (PPL), but Smith has been cleaned last week and the charges against Boucher were rejected less than a week before his disciplinary hearing was due to begin. The word “finality” is circulating. It’s just that the PPL hearings were never about individuals or underlining the line in the sand. And Cricket South Africa (CSA) now has a chance to move the debate with two, influential figures to the game as a whole.

It is easy to see why Smith and Boucher became the epicenter. As cricket director and national men’s coach, the pair held two of the most powerful positions in South African cricket and the way they occupied them – on some crazy days in December 2019 – raised issues of favoritism and fear of “white takeover”.

But how they illustrated the overall concern of the PPL is another question. Their names were mentioned on the first day of testimony, when former board member Dr. Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw, who conceptualized the PPC, questioned the process of appointing them. Although the CSA acknowledged the shortcomings that led to the filling of vacancies without advertisements or interviews, it also noted that these processes had been ratified by the previous committee and no further action can be taken.

Later, several people who testified at the hearings named Smith and Boucher. Ombudsmen have occasionally asked witnesses if Smith and Boucher in particular were involved in incidents of racial discrimination. But the couple’s prominence became part of the dominant story only with the submission of a PPC report, in which Ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza said he believed they could engage in racially discriminatory behavior. He encouraged the CSA to investigate further.

Although entitled “Interim Report”, it is the only document that the ADS received from the Ombudsman, and since it could not make final findings, it put the ADS in an impossible position. The committee could not act responsibly towards the “trial findings”, but it also could not ignore the report, throwing its weight behind the process. The only solution was to follow the ombudsman’s advice and initiate formal proceedings against those named therein; and the only lawsuits the committee could embark on were against people working with the CSA. So we come to Smith and Boucher.

The PPL was the wrong report because it was not final. She left the door open for only two figures to become the main characters, and although their level of experience means they may have always been part of the story, they are not entirely. “

We must remember that Smith and Boucher were not the only persons listed in the report. AB de Villiers, for example, he was one of the most prominent persons to be appointed, along with a number of former and current players, some of whom gave written statements to the SJN (such as de Villiers) and others who did not. Naming (and shame, so to speak) cannot be the point of an exercise like the PPL because then it loses any chance of real meaning, which involves resolving macro-issues.

The testimony divided into PPLs covered the period before readmission (Omar Henry‘with memories that both communities are colored and white is one example) to this day. But the focus has been mostly on the national men’s national team, from re-admission to mid-2010s. This is the period when Boucher (in his statement) said that the players were unprepared because the CSA did not do enough to train them to deal with the “legacy of apartheid … additional pressure from the state and the media, how we ensure equality , respect, empathy and involvement in the team. “

There is some naivety in Boucher’s statement – which could have been extended to other players at the time – suggesting that they did not take responsibility for being part of a changing world, and perhaps did not see the need to change with that world. On a professional level, cricket has remained a white-dominated sport, even as it began to operate at the intersection of old South Africa and the new. In fact, it was more in the old, simply because there were more people who were involved on that side of history and were able to establish their way of working as the norm.

For a better understanding, we need to take a little deeper look at the then dominant sports culture, which emerged from the elite school system of hierarchy. This is how the top schools in the country still operate today, where there is harassment, unpleasant initiation rites and unspoken rules about who can do what and when. Going through it is a ritual for many young people, who have been taught to be firm and have to learn it the hard way.

That’s why we get statements like “this is a man’s environment” and “harden yourself” from the current test captain Dean Elgar. It was therefore acceptable for South African fans to ridicule David Warner with his wife’s intimate history. This is a place where open expression of masculinity is celebrated, not any form of vulnerability, and it was even sharper in that period immediately after readmission.

As a young player, and especially a young colored player, it was hard to get into that space. It was unthinkable to dispute that. Nor Paul Adams, nor could Boucher say whether they considered the songs in the sentencing meetings inappropriate. No one would. Interestingly, no one else who played with Adams or Boucher said anything about their experience. Adams later realized that he was the target of racial insults; Boucher has since said he understands the seriousness of the offense.

So the real question we should ask is has anything changed?

Boucher, in his statement Tuesday, argues that the team environment is “inclusive”, something that players including the captain of the white ball Temba Bavuma have confirmed. The current number of players has gone through several cultural camps and established three pillars that they consider to be the core of their approach: respect, empathy and belonging. As for buzz speech, that sounds good.

They continue to hold fines meetings, continue to sing songs, and continue to use stereotypes in a half-joking, half-mocking way. Is this just part of the networking exercise that all teams go through? Or is it something that needs to be considered and considered more deeply, especially in a society like South Africa? These are questions this current group of players need to answer as they strive to move forward, from the old days when Boucher and his ilk weren’t sure how to deal with each other, to a time when they could embody the idea of ​​unity.

The SJN made us think and talk about it, outside of cricket circles only. This gave voice to those like Adams, who said he had never had a chance to talk about his experience before, while providing a platform for defendants to respond. Smith and Boucher chose not to do so in person, instead submitting written submissions. It was their right, but it may have robbed the process of the necessary level of humanity or the ability to allow people to understand each other better.

At the same time, the PPL was an erroneous report because it was not final. She left the door open for only two figures to become the main characters and although their level of seniority means they may have always been part of the story, they are not entirely. It is only when we begin to face the outgrowths – developmental problems, women’s play, school structures, support staff concerns and everything in between – that we will see the full benefits of processes such as the PPL. It was a firefighter; now the flame must be caught.

Firdose Moonda is a correspondent for ESPNcricinfo in South Africa


Leave a Comment