At one point during my short and spectacularly unsuccessful military career, I recall being made to walk a very long way for several days with very little water to drink. Like all military training exercises, it seemed brain numbingly pointless.
There was Sergeant Rose barking his irritating head off and telling us when we could have a sip of water. Every three hours, I think. Otherwise, he would rip our guts out with his teeth and shove them up our backsides, or something similarly creative. I recall having plenty of trouble coming to terms with what a ‘sip’ was, and I wasn’t the only one.
Then came a shock. On the third day (it felt like the 33rd) when we had very little water left but something like 12 hours walking ahead of us, Seargeant Rose announced that we could drink as much as we liked whenever we wanted.
Well, did that cause confusion! A couple of guys briefly thought about dredging their water bottles on the spot just to see what Satan Rose would do but they quickly realised that, with 12 hours on the road still to go, they’d only be hurting themselves.
Although he’d been a complete bastard doing it, Rose had managed to teach us very quickly about the importance of water, how to use it, how to stop it evaporating and how to make it go as far as possible.
But he couldn’t keep doing it. His job, obviously, was to stop us from killing ourselves and by ignoring short-term thirst and taking a long-term view.
I couldn’t help remembering the experience this week as crickets leaders cast the games provinces free from the choke-chain of quotas and said: “there you go, pick whomever you like.” The point is, they know the basic training has been completed.
Demographically aware selection policies are as important to the survival of South African cricket as water is to army trainees in the desert, and the game’s leaders have taught themselves that.
Even if there are a couple of trainees who feel like testing the new policy by dropping back to 10 or 11 white players, they will soon realise they are only harming themselves.
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