Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - How push came to shove in SA's De Kock crisis. Quinton de Kock missed South Africa's win over West Indies after it was made mandatory to take the knee before the game
Quinton de Kock missed South Africa's win over West Indies after it was made mandatory to take the knee before the game
Quinton de Kock's refusal to play in South Africa's T20 WC game against West Indies in Dubai on Tuesday in defiance of a CSA instruction has put the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) in crisis mode.
As the players' trade union, SACA represent De Kock. But they also speak for all the other players, who duly took a knee on the outfield in accordance with a CSA directive that was decided on at a board meeting on Monday night and communicated to the squad five hours before the start of Tuesday's match. For reasons he has yet to articulate, De Kock pulled out of the match rather than kneel.
Coincidentally on Wednesday, SACA chief executive Andrew Breetzke testified at the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings into allegations of racism in the game in the country during the past 30 years. He was asked about the De Kock affair, and said: “The disappointment of where we stand now is that this issue probably should have been dealt with a while ago, and not by the board at an ICC event where it's front-of-house and is a crisis, which we have to manage.
“Some players have not taken the knee since June. It should have been dealt with then and we wouldn't have a crisis now. From a SACA perspective I would like to see the players have a uniform approach to taking the knee. But I'm not going to instruct a player to take a knee, on the same basis. I'm hoping we can have a good solution to this and the work that's currently being done, that I'm involved in.”
The issue has been brewing since November last year, when the players said in a statement they were “exploring the significance of taking the knee and a raised fist” in explaining why they would not kneel in an imminent home T20I series against England. In December, a CSA release quoted then interim board chair Zak Yacoob as having “expressed concern about the implications of this statement”.
Since their tour to the Caribbean in June, South Africa's players have given themselves the options of taking a knee, raising a fist while standing, or standing to attention. That has fuelled the impression of rifts along racial lines in the side: all of the black and brown players have knelt while all of the players who have remained standing have been white. Rassie van der Dussen and Kyle Verreynne have been the kneeling exceptions among the white players.
That is a regression from Centurion on July 18 last year, when all involved in the 3TC game knelt. Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Anrich Nortje, Aiden Markram and Van der Dussen were among those players and are part of the T20 WC squad. Only Van der Dussen has continued to take a knee.
It seems push finally came to shove for CSA on Monday. Asked by public intellectual Eusebius McKaiser during a podcast aired on website TimesLIVE on Wednesday what value the gesture had if recalcitrant players were compelled to perform it, CSA board chair Lawson Naidoo said: “Voluntarism would have been the ideal situation. That's why we allowed the players the time and the space to try and come to that conclusion themselves. They were unable to do so, and therefore it was necessary for the board to make this intervention.
“It is not an ideal situation. But it was a tough decision that needed to be taken and one that the board unanimously agreed to. The symbolism is much stronger if it's done voluntarily, but we're in a situation where visual images carry a lot of weight globally and on social media and the like. The visual images we saw on Saturday [when South Africa played Australia in Abu Dhabi, where the three options were still in effect] reverberated around South Africa as well and came in for significant criticism because they portrayed a team that was not united as one.”
That prompted the board to act, albeit without the squad's buy-in. “We didn't consult with the team,” Naidoo said. “There were reports that the team had continued discussing this matter and were unable to arrive at a consensus position that they could all agree to. The issue was raised by some directors on the board. What I did then, having just arrived back from the UAE [where he attended Saturday's match], was to consult urgently with all of the directors.
“I spoke to each of the directors of the board at some length [on Monday night] to discuss the issue of what they felt was an appropriate response. It was unanimously agreed that, given that the team were unable to resolve the issue internally, this was the moment for the board to intervene and to issue the directive that was ultimately agreed upon and which was communicated to the senior management early [on Tuesday] morning.”
Whatever the wisdom of the board's move, and its timing, it will be left to people like Breetzke to douse the resultant fire. Employers make all sorts of demands of employees that, if challenged in court, could be declared unlawful. We're a long way from that point, but we're also past the stage where the saga could be discussed amicably between the suits and the players.
That, Breetzke implied, was a pity: “This Proteas team has probably had more culture and diversity engagement than any other Proteas team. Specifically under the leadership of Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar, they have had the hard conversations. I'm aware of that; I've had that engagement with them around diversity in the team and the players' understanding of BLM [Black Lives Matter] and taking the knee, and the players' understanding of what it means to be in a team with diverse cultures and races.”
Bavuma is in the same boat as Breetzke. It was left to him to explain De Kock's decision at a press conference after Tuesday's match. That his team had beaten the Windies handsomely to stay ahead of the curve in the tournament was all but ignored in the deluge of questions on matters that had been taken out of his hands.
“I feel sorry for Temba Bavuma, because he has done incredibly good work in managing that team culture around diversity,” Breetzke said. “His press conference was excellent in terms of dealing with the issue. I would be critical of CSA because this isn't a new thing. It's been around a while. I don't think it should have come up at the World Cup.”
All the while predominantly white teams from other countries have shown no objection to adopting the globally recognised gesture of support for the fight against racism. That a side from a place that has spent centuries beleaguered by colour-coded oppression, which continues to play out in every aspect of their society, should have to be forced by an order from above to be seen to join that fight in the most superficial way is an indictment of their lack of honesty and willingness to confront the black, brown and white elephant in the room.
It was all too much for De Kock, who put his knees where his mouth is. Or will be once – or even if – he enlightens us about his decision. He can afford that choice. As a special player who has been able to realise his potential because he was born the right colour in a country that still puts whiteness on so many pedestals, his path to cricket's biggest stages has not been blocked. He could thus follow AB de Villiers and run away to join the travelling T20 circus. But at what cost to his country, his team and his own psyche?
It's not the first time South Africans have been undone by their misplaced sense of exceptionalism and it won't be the last. But it could be the first time one of their own would seem to consider himself more special than all the rest.