My parade of cricket is – more often than not – rained upon by the most inconvenient elements of the game: piss poor play, closely drawn Test matches, bad media reports, and debaucherous claims. More recent rains on my parade, however, have been the wind of claims that being of black African race is a make-or- break factor in player selection. Now, poor play, draws, and bad behaviour are as generic as natural to any historically male sporting code. But I have never quite understood how race could sway the selector / administrator / coach to inhibit a good black African prospect the opportunity to play.
To put this in simple terms, mull over a scenario: Muzi is a cricketer, catchy player, and a key bowler in the senior leagues – a definite candidate for selection. He bats too (bottom middle order enough). And then there is Hector, the selector / administrator / coach / who gives Muzi a chance at play – twice on the field, twice on the bench and not for another few months at least. In between his amateur List 33.00 batting average, 4.00 bowling economy and prospective aspect, he is deemed unfit to continue play. Muzi never really gets a break beyond this level until he lands a corporate job or is ushered into the very role of cricket selector / administrator / coach. Ironic: easy to believe but difficult to make sense of.
What makes sense is the package that makes up a prime player: raw talent, manner, confidence, approach, and statistics. Not race, surely, as it would be imbecilic for anyone in a professional position to develop and advance a sporting structure to be going about it in such a narrow way? The abundant qualities that go into what it takes to make a prime black African cricketer are often more compound than raw talent, manner, confidence, approach, and statistics. We know this, right? So, that anyone vested in the game would act against this dynamic would be wrong. But I may very well be wrong.
When Tim May (resigned FICA Chief Executive Officer) eluded to the reality that ‘cricket increasingly seems to be pushing aside the principles of transparency, accountability, independence, and upholding the best interests of the global game, in favour of a system that appears to operate through threats, intimidation and backroom,’ I began to loosely associate that with the ideals of transformation in national cricket and slow (albeit sure) progress in this regard. Has the game become so non-transparent, unaccountable and dependable on the objectivity of cricket selectors / administrators / coaches that performance indicators favour frivolous subjective criteria … I wonder.
And whilst I remain wondering, I hope that the black African cricketer stays working on his nuanced package to make sure that he is counted in this competitive age. Unfortunately, cricket hinges itself on a player’s ability to stand out and be counted even if on a rainy day. Long-term economic investment in raw talent, confidence to unabashedly break away from the socio-historical shadows of a parochial gentleman’s game and statistics that back it all up would really look smart. It is then, perhaps, that (s)he can make an undisputed claim to a rightful place in a starting XI. Less rain over my cricket parade, please.
 Coverdale, Brydon. 2013, Frustrated Tim May quits FICA. 5 June 2013. ESPN Cricinfo: News Index. Available from: <http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/639114.html>. [23 December 2013].