Proteas

Proteas will 'never be picked' on colour

2016-11-30 13:00
Linda Zondi (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The political pressure on South Africa's national sporting teams is no secret. 

Ever since sports minister Fikile Mbalula banned Cricket South Africa (CSA), SA Rugby, Athletics South Africa (ASA) and Netball South Africa (NSA) from bidding for major events back in April due to a lack of transformation, the quest for representation in South African sport has reached a new level. 

The Springboks have been given the target of ensuring that their squad is made up of 50% players of colour by the 2019 World Cup, while the Proteas committed to ensuring that 53% of their side (six players) will be players of colour moving forward. 

The Proteas will not be measured on a match-to-match basis, but rather on an annual average across all three formats. 

While rugby still has a long way to go - they have been hovering at around 30% representation during their northern hemisphere tour - the Proteas all-of-a-sudden seem a team that is naturally transformed. 

There are no doubts over the abilities of any player in the current set-up. 

In fact, when the Proteas fielded eight players of colour in an ODI win over Australia back in June, it went by almost unnoticed. 

There does appear to be an element of natural progression accompanying cricket right now, where players of colour are succeeding at the highest level on a regular basis. 

For convenor of selectors Linda Zondi, that shows that sides are picked on merit. 

In an interview with Sport24 this week, Zondi was adamant in the fact that he would "never" pick a player based on the colour of his skin. 

"For me, as a convenor, I will never pick a player based on colour," he said.

"I will pick a player based on his ability to represent our country. I will never accept mediocrity.

"The country wants us to do well and to transform and to win matches ... I’m very happy with the talent that we have and we just want to maintain the high standards we have when picking players."

According to Zondi, the domestic structures in South African cricket are succeeding in widening the pool of black cricketers who are being given opportunities to grow. 

Ahead of the 2014/15 domestic season in South Africa, CSA ruled that each franchise would have to field five players of colour (two black Africans) in every match they played across all formats throughout the season. 

That number was increased to six players of colour (three black Africans) for the 2015/16 season. 

"We’ve got a lot of flak before in terms of people criticising our franchise system and transformation," Zondi said.  

"We backed the system and the players that we had and fortunately we had some world class players. It became a natural thing."

Zondi was also open about the advantages that came with being assessed annually and not after every match. 

"The board has been very strategic in terms of giving us an annual target and not a match-to-match target, which gives us more room when selecting players," he said.

"It’s important to know that ... just because the team is losing, it shouldn’t be about transformation. And if the team is winning, it also shouldn’t be about an individual.

"It is a collective approach in which these guys who have been picked have done well at franchise level. We make sure that whatever player we pick, we are sure in our minds that he can represent South Africa.

"We are not looking at colour, but we are looking at the player."

Read more on:    proteas  |  linda zondi  |  cricket
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