There is nothing sadder during the holiday, festive season than unhappy or frustrated people and, unfortunately, there are a few around in the cricket world at the moment.
The last time I can remember so much unhappiness being created in and around the national team was almost exactly four years ago when a frustrated UCB president, Percy Sonn, became so agitated with what he perceived to be a missed opportunity to transform the national team that he felt obliged to use his presidential power of veto. He unilaterally ousted Jacques Rudolph from the test team to play Australia in Sydney and replaced him with Justin Ontong.
The furore that followed caught Percy by surprise though he actually handled the fallout very well. The moment it all began to make sense to me was when I asked him during a press conference whether he believed the time had come to increase the official quota of black players from one to two.
“Oh yes, YES!” he exclaimed, shaking his head in frustration and relief at the same time.
Maybe the white guys in cricket will just never ‘get it’. How do the privileged understand the underprivileged? By sleeping on the streets for a couple of days? How do the white guys in cricket comprehend the backlog of resentment created in Percy Sonn or his successor, Ray Mali, by 40 years of cricketing isolation in which they weren’t allowed to represent their country under any circumstances?
It gave Sonn a strong enough conviction to act as he did in Sydney four years ago and it has given Mali ample belief in the ‘rightness’ of his actions as he twice over-ruled the national selection panel in over-ruling the selection of Mark Boucher in favour of Thami Tsolekile.
Mali is a good and fair man – otherwise he would never have risen to the rank of UCB president. So it must go against every one of his natural instincts to take such draconian action. He must realise he is ‘playing God’ with the careers of the young men chosen – and not – to play for South Africa, and it must be with a heavy heart that he uses his veto.
Boucher lost out in Port Elizabeth after a 3:1 selectorial vote in his favour and the same happened once again before the double header in Durban and Cape Town. Except this time the vote was 4:0.
Mali is frustrated by the slowness of the national team to change its face and his pain has translated into action; drastic action, as it happens. Instead of lambasting and lampooning him, perhaps we should understand how far a man has to be pushed to become a dictator with so little apparent care for his victims.
So my Christmas wish, on behalf of both Ray Mali and Ray Jennings, is that they both get the team they want before the series against England is finished without having to resort to begging or administrative thuggery, which appear to be their only options at the moment.
And for Thami, caught innocently in the cross-fire, I wish a Test century. Or just a half century. Rarely would sweeter runs have been scored.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.