Black cricketers need confidence instilled in them from their coaches and captains in order to thrive.
The Titans must be congratulated on winning the Sunfoil Series title. They played an exciting and positive brand of cricket, so it was fully deserved, and leading the way for them was Heino Kuhn. Passing 1 000 runs was a great achievement for him. He’s one of those professionals who wants to put everything into his career, and it’s paid off for him. Opening the batting in South Africa isn’t easy, and national selectors must take note. When you score as many runs as him there’s nothing the selectors can do. He’s put them in a difficult position. It doesn’t matter that he’s 32. Every cricketer must believe they can still play for their country. It’s all about scoring runs, and he’s done it in a winning team.
Now on to the elephant in the room. The quota guidelines that have been implemented this season are a positive thing for South African cricket and the country as a whole this season, and it’s something that should have been done ten years ago, as we’ve seen some fantastic cricketers emerge out of it. In the past there hasn’t been a lot of support for black cricketers, because of the way most of the hierarchy in the franchises and the media see them: quota players. If the talent is there, and they’re backed accordingly, these players will blossom. This is where leadership from the captain and the coach is so important.
There are some players who don’t feel like they’re being backed, because they will play one or two games, score 7 or 10, and the hierarchy will decide ‘let’s try the next one’. What message does that send? What confidence does that give a player? At the Lions we back our black players, and coach Geoffrey Toyana plays a big role in that. Our black players have been match winners and we’ve used them in this way. They must understand they are in the team to be match winners, and when they are backed by leadership, they start to believe in themselves and have the confidence to give their best.
When I started playing, I felt like I was playing because of the colour of my skin, but now my figures stand out amongst the best. There was a time when I was playing for the Proteas and the media said I should be dropped. The then coach Gary Kirsten said ‘you know what, I back you. You know why? Because I know that when you score runs you score big runs.’ The innings before that I scored a duck, the innings after that I made my highest score (182). Kirsten said ‘I don’t care about your duck. I back you.’ I had confidence. There was no pressure because the people that mattered backed me.
Temba Bavuma is a good example of this. A lot of people said he wasn’t good enough. He was backed at the Lions and look at him now. I wonder how many coaches went up to a black player this season and said ‘I back you. You have ten matches to make a name for yourself and show the country what you’re capable of.’ People must open their eyes. Transformation is working.