'Cricket reasons' for white-dominated S. Africa T20 World Cup squad

Cricket Kagiso Rabada is the only black African in the South Africa squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup.  By PHILL MAGAKOE (AFP)
Kagiso Rabada is the only black African in the South Africa squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup. By PHILL MAGAKOE (AFP)

"My number one imperative is to create a winning Proteas team," said South Africa coach Rob Walter when asked to explain the white-dominated racial make-up of the 2024 T20 World Cup squad.

"In order to do that I have to pick the best team that has the best chance of doing that."

Coming from most national coaches, that would have been a case of stating the obvious.

In Walter's case, though, it signalled a change of policy on the part of his employer, Cricket South Africa (CSA), and his immediate boss, director of cricket Enoch Nkwe.

CSA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki told the Sport24 website that the composition of the team chosen by Walter was a concern, but added that he and Nkwe agreed that there were "cricket reasons" for the racial balance.

The 15-man squad for the tournament in the United States and the West Indies from June 1-29 contains nine whites, just one black African –- fast bowler Kagiso Rabada –- and five mixed race or Asian origin players.

Not since 2016, for the T20 World Cup in India, has a South African squad for an International Cricket Council event been so dominated by whites.

A month after the 2016 tournament, then minister of sport Fikile Mbalula said CSA would not be allowed to bid to stage major international events following a report from a government-appointed committee that the pace of transformation in the sport was too slow.

Later that year CSA announced that formal targets for racial representation would be introduced with immediate effect, to be assessed over the course of a season.

A maximum of five whites could be included in a 11-man team and there had to be at least two black Africans.

Moseki said that quotas at domestic level –- which call for at least three black Africans in a starting team –- were aimed at ensuring a larger pool of black players of international standard.

He said targets for the national team remained in place.

"They wouldn't be based on just one tournament, but as Rob explained, it (the T20 World Cup selection) was quite a challenging thing to deal with as we haven't done this in ages."

Walter and Test coach Shukri Conrad were appointed in January last year and given sole authority for selection, although Walter told journalists at the squad announcement, "No squad I pick is selected without discussion with the director of cricket".

Nkwe said CSA was working to meet transformation objectives ahead of the 2027 50-overs Cricket World Cup in South Africa.

"We have different formats where some players may struggle and succeed better than others," said Nkwe. "We find ourselves in the struggling situation in T20 cricket."

Walter said he hoped to see more black players coming through.

"The system needs to really up the ante so that in six months, 12 months or in two years' time, in particular when we reach the 2027 World Cup at home, the demographics and representation in our team starts to look a bit different," he said.

"Outside of the World Cup, we will continue... to grow our base of players to create international opportunities for players to pit their skills at a higher level and make sure we have bought in on delivering a process that is going to change what our team looks like going forward."

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024