South African cricket unified in 1992 when the then South African Cricket Board and South African Cricket Union amalgamated to form the United Cricket Board (UCB). In 1998 the UCB embarked on a transformation policy and it was agreed that each provincial team would have a quota of at least three players of “colour”. This programme worked well and resulted in many quality players of “colour” representing the Proteas and the eleven provincial teams.
Seventeen years later the quota has been increased to six players of “colour” for each of the six franchise teams and with regard the national team, a very loose arrangement of four. Cricket South Africa (CSA) calls them targets but in fact they are quotas as they are legislated and any team failing to comply is fined. So the question is what is a transformed Proteas team and when will South African cricket be normalised?
To be a superpower in world cricket there are three ingredients that are required: A country needs to have a passionate strong fan base to support the game. South Africa does not have it and in fact the current fans base is busy diminishing. Secondly, a country needs a strong economy and currency to compete on the global stage. South Africa also does not have this ingredient. Lastly, but most importantly, a country must have a strong team. This is one area where South African cricket is a world leader, but CSA is not nurturing this area. Statistics show that only 10% of school boy cricketers play cricket after school. This is why the club system is busy shrinking in the country.
Already South African cricket has lost the profile as one of the leaders in world cricket that it once enjoyed. It is now ranked in the second tier with Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. If CSA fails to keep producing quality teams and players, South Africa’s profile will slip even further and be aligned with the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. This would have disastrous consequences commercially and the game could face bankruptcy. The only guarantee CSA has is to have a world class international team on an ongoing basis that remains in demand in world cricket.
However, any sporting team is only as strong as the players it produces on a continuous basis. The CSA quota strategy at the franchise level is harming the development of young future international players of all races and this will ultimately have a negative impact commercially and on the Proteas’ team performances. In the franchise system there are a maximum of thirty places for white players, and a maximum of forty eight for coloured and Indian players. The culture of the game of cricket primarily lays with the minority groupings of South African cricket.
If the game is to be sustained, grown and kept healthy, then CSA needs to tell the public and players what their transformation goals are and when South African cricket will be transformed. Failure to do this will have serious long term consequences for the game in South Africa.