The Cricketers Noir, Part2

 

Boeta Dippenaar made a compelling argument for the limited involvement of nationally contracted cricketers’ at franchise level:

“You would like to see international players playing domestic cricket, but do you really want to risk a player like Jacques Kallis or Dale Steyn? They are SA’s biggest assets and should not be risked at domestic level.”

Dippenaar believes the same principle dictates players’ paths to prominence at lower levels.

“Club cricket should be maintained from a social point of view, but there is no doubt that it is dead with regards to being a feeder to professional cricket.”[1]

As the reader, I recalled an interview of his circa 2008 which subsequently implored the need for the South African Cricketers Association (SACA) to clarify their stance on the transformational policy of the time: my first reaction was for Dippenaar to clarify his reference to club cricket. Whilst he was not necessarily taking a swipe at the format, I could not help but coordinate two stilts to stand on for part two of the cricketer’s noir: attitudes toward development channels and club cricket as a foundation for black African cricket.

Crossed Cricket Bats (black)

Black African clubs have a specific trait: historically, by geographical and spatial disadvantage, and currently, by virtue of their pressing need for technical adjustment and alignment with the other more advanced clubs. ‘There are 767 cricket clubs in South Africa. Of those, 167 are black African. That translates into 22.7%.’[2] Starting from the proverbial bottom, 167 black African clubs are a lot; enough – at least – to surf a wave of black African cricket talent. To be sure that the player profiles of these clubs are of pure black African composition is not exhaustive; similarly, the multi-racial composition of the remaining 600 cricket clubs should not be assumed. What is of importance is the fact that players and administrators under many of these clubs are still in a position in need of development, not just from a talent perspective, but also from an infrastructural, socio-economic, and moral gather.

In the quest for representivity within the black African demographic of the Proteas national squad, the fair fact that 79,5% of S.A’s male population is black African and the other 20,5% composed of Asian, mixed-race, and white South African males has become a redundantly obscure premise. At the back of my mind, I have always found the need to have a team resembling basic racial demographics at risk of being dismissive because, by implication, it would assume (1) the Department of Statistics South Africa as the ground-breaking sports-trend analysts (2) the budding attraction of cricket as a handsome playing field and (3) the highest development of black African cricket in post-Apartheid South Africa. Dismissal of the realities that face players and administrators alike would be – albeit unintentionally – fallacious.

The feeder system in sport is a nuanced one. Cricket stages can be broken down into junior and schools games, academy discipline, regional level, rookie engagement, franchise role and national duty. By lucky break, you could skip the academy disciplines or rookie engagement to still make the big leagues, but a player in gold-and-green typically goes through all of these paces. Of these channels, a familiar and ever-enduring base camp for initiation into elite competition is club cricket, with a clubhouse to which each of the channels is implicitly affiliated. The opinion that such a keystone of athlete development is some sort of play-play social weekend setup would be – albeit unintentionally – fallacious.

Even away from the black and white dichotomy, all clubs struggle the battle of resources, maladministration and commitment in leagues wherein the most fierce (and age-old) cricket competitions take place. The club stage as a ubiquitous channel throughout the career of any cricket professional makes it important and the need to ensure its longevity is even more vital.

Crossed Cricket Bats (black)

What I look to emphasise is the role of this particular stage in on-going athlete development and in the development of the black African cricketer. Dippenaar was most likely not looking to rip-off the club levels – this is the Players’ Representative of SACA, after all, who was once quoted as positively stating: “Cricket is only 30 per cent physical and 70 per cent mental. South Africans train 120 per cent physically.” Clarity, much?


[1] Telford Vice (28 April 2013) ‘CSA contracted player’s shouldn’t be involved with franchise cricket.’ Sowetan Sunday World. Retrieved: http://docs.google.com/document/d/1X4fd8e3yX13VZQl-aYg1Tyo52lht3GibZJUSPwAVSPE/edit?usp=sharing&pli=1

[2] Telford Vice (2013, March-May) ‘Glaring Absence.’ SA Cricket Magazine, Issue:119. p75.

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