Look in the black and white mirror

The greatest fear, it is said, is the fear of the unknown. It makes sense on a personal level – when you fall off your bike at high speed and have blood pouring out of an arm you can no longer feel, it is infinitely more frightening than when you are told the extent of the injury and that it will take four weeks to heal in a cast.

Perhaps the same is the case with South African cricket. And, indeed, international cricket. We just don’t know what the future holds and that makes people jittery.

There are too many cricketers of first-class quality in South Africa and no sign of the production line slowing down. Private schools won’t produce less cricketers and the production points are expanding all the time. Finally, we may reach the point where every young cricketer has the opportunity to reach his potential. Which leaves us with even more players with the ability to earn a living from the game but unable to do so.

In theory, that is a good thing because the best players rise to the top leading to a Proteas team which can, once again, be the best in the world. Even at ICC events.

But the reality is a little more cloudy. The ladder of progression and promotion must be clear for every employee in any business, and if the very first step onto it in the professional ranks is unclear and unstable, the desire to climb higher is immediately compromised.

It is now clear that two more professional Franchises will be established for the 2017-18 season, a vital change as it offers another 30 or so opportunities for cricketers to establish their credentials. But other changes need to be made.

The ‘A’ team currently on tour in Zimbabwe is a magnificent example of what that level of cricket should be about. For half a decade the ‘A’ team has been a Transformation XI. Such initiatives are equally important in the big picture but, for the players genuinely on the verge of Proteas colours, the disincentive created by being overlooked for ‘A’ colours can be devastating.

It is painfully easy and simplistic to see everything in terms of black and white, and brown, because everything really does feel that way. But it’s not that simple. Because one man’s ‘black’ is another man’s ‘white’, or ‘brown’. It’s about how we perceive talent and potential.

As I have been asking for over a decade, how would the average white supporter have reacted if two black Test players had been selected in 2004 with just 11 and 12 first-class appearances respectively? But they were Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers.

Attitudes amongst white supporters need to change. There are undoubtedly some black players fulfilling quota obligations in first-class cricket but there may be many more who would benefit from genuine, heartfelt support.

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