Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - "It isn't as simple as just taking a knee, we have to appreciate that we live in SA". "Quinton is an adult, he's a man in his own shoes, we respect his decision"
"Quinton is an adult, he's a man in his own shoes, we respect his decision"
Somehow, despite the noise beyond the boundary, despite the disruption in the dressing room, despite the self-imposed omission of their premier batter that caused all the fuss, South Africa won. And won well under the pressure of what losing might have meant.
Having paid the price for batting poorly against Australia in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Temba Bavuma's team pretty much had to beat West Indies in Dubai on Tuesday to retain a serious chance of reaching the knockout rounds of the T20 WC.
No doubt the South Africans tried to think of every which way things could go off the rails, and planned accordingly. But they wouldn't in their wildest dreams have thought they would have to wonder how to overcome Quinton de Kock's refusal to play.
De Kock made that decision in the wake of CSA's board issuing a directive that all South Africa's players would be required to take a knee before the start of games for the rest of the tournament to show unified support for the global fight for racial justice.
So losing wouldn't only have impeded South Africa's progress. It would also have been a victory for racism. Thus you could say there was more at stake on Tuesday than there has been in all of the other 1,222 matches this team have played since 1889. No pressure.
When Heinrich Klaasen, De Kock's replacement behind the stumps, fluffed a catch in the sixth over that should have earned Anrich Nortje Lendl Simmons', the sky darkened. When it took until the 11th over to separate Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis, who shared 73 for the first wicket, you could feel witchery stirring.
But South Africa's black, brown and white bowlers held the Windies to a slightly sub-par total of 143/8. Bavuma was run out after the sixth ball of his team's reply with a sniping direct hit from Andre Russell at mid-on; black excellence on legs. The bristling brown Reeza Hendricks added 57 with Rassie van der Dussen, who shared an unbroken stand of 83 with another white knight, Aiden Markram – whose 26-ball 51 not out shimmered with pale poise. South Africa is far from the rainbow nation some like to think it is, but there was light and shade about their eight-wicket win.
Nortje, who had yorked the dangerous Russell in his white-hot burst of 1/14, was the originally announced press conference victim. But, given the circumstances, that changed. This needed someone capable of explaining a mess not of his own making. So Bavuma arrived.
What did he make of De Kock's decision? “As a team we're surprised and taken aback by the news. Quinton is a big player for the team. Not just with the bat, but the role he plays from a senior point of view and from an experience point of view. And not having that at my disposal as a captain was obviously something I wasn't looking forward to.
“In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He's a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision. We respect his convictions. I know that he'll be standing behind whatever decision that he's taken. From the team's point of view, we still have to get the job done. There was still a game of cricket there for our country. And it was important, as much as everything was happening, that we found a way to get into the right mental space and take it home for our country.”
Bavuma said he discovered De Kock had bailed on his team after they reached the dressing room on Tuesday: “There wasn't a great deal of time for us to discuss this matter. It was a matter of us digesting what we've been told and finding a way for us to move forward.”
How did it make him feel that the simple, harmless, basic act of kneeling in support of a more important cause was beyond some people?
“I don't think it's as simple as just taking a knee. I think we have to appreciate the fact that we live in a country like South Africa that has its own past that is diverse – diverse in its views, diverse in the way people see things, their backgrounds. Decisions that we take, things that we support, are based on our own convictions.
“As much as we're a team – we wear the same shirt, we play for the badge – outside of that, we still live our own lives, and those lives are different by the very nature of how we live in South Africa.
“Over the last while I've learned to appreciate that a lot more; to try to widen your own perspective as an individual and not expect people to see things the way that you see things. My beliefs are shaped by my own experiences, my own background, and so is the other person's. If there is a disagreement in terms of beliefs, that's why we have those hard conversations.
“Through those conversations you'll be able to get the ability to accept the other person's decision. I can't force anyone to see things the way that I do. Neither can they force me.”
Now what? “We have to keep focusing as much as we can on the team, most particularly about matters on the field. You guys are going to judge us by how well we bowl the ball and how well we hit the ball. I don't think you're going to be looking at the fact that we were martyrs or we stood for whatever cause we stood for. [My role] being the leader of the side is to make sure that our eye is on the ball.”
Kieron Pollard also shares a dressing room with De Kock – for the Mumbai Indians. No knees are taken there, or anywhere in the IPL. But West Indies have knelt in every match they have played since July last year. “It's something that we feel strongly about as a team and as a people, as well, and we will continue to do it,” Pollard said. “Each and every one has their own opinions on it, but once you're educated and you understand…”
Hours earlier, on commentary, Darren Sammy and Pommie Mbangwa caught the mood in this exchange during the first over:
Sammy: “My mother used to always say that you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything. It's good to see players united; it's something that has affected so many people across the world. It will be a conversation in this World Cup.
Mbangwa: “I daresay, Darren, that cricket will take a back seat, and I know it's a big statement for me to make in a cricket World Cup, which absolutely everybody would like to play in. I speak because the team concerned is South Africa, with a history of exclusion and racism. And for this as an issue to still be here, and to rear [its head] here… well, it's huge. The South African board's statement… essentially says [there is a] lack of support for people of colour within the side, within the country and the world as a whole. Excuse me for being political, because some will say it is political, but I cannot shed my skin. I hope – I hope – that the discussion, at the very least, can be about how to be united about something that everybody agrees on. This is also in the hope that there is agreement in that regard.”
Sammy: “Some things I don't understand. Why's it so difficult to support this movement, if you understand what it stands for? That's just my opinion on what my kind have been through. There have been other issues affecting the world, but I don't understand why it is so difficult.”
Mbangwa: “With regard to Quinton de Kock, freedom of choice is fair enough. I don't know [and] I don't want to speculate on what the personal reasons exactly are because I haven't got those. But I hope the discussion can actually be had. Thank you for letting me have my say. I'll move on to the game.”
Ah, the game. Who can say whether the right team won it, but they did so for the right reasons.