• Faf: I don’t see colour

    Faf du Plessis has confirmed what we all knew already. Pieter Malan, the 30-year-old opening batter who has toiled in South African domestic cricket for 13 years, will make his international debut against England in the second Test at his home ground of Newlands.

    The Proteas skipper said matter of factly that the decision to include the ‘traditional, grinder’ opener, as he described Malan, was an obvious one with Aiden Markram’s hand injury ruling him out for the rest of the series.

    New magazine issue: Why De Kock must bat at four

    ‘It’s about a weight of runs,’ was Du Plessis’ justification for selecting Malan, who has scored just under 2,000 runs over the last three seasons – with eight hundreds and an average hovering close to 50.

    But this is South Africa, a country that used to see the world in black-and-white terms by law and now struggles to see the cavernous grey areas that exist in conversations about race, class, representation, opportunity and transformation.

    Malan’s selection means the Proteas will, as they did in the first Test in Centurion, field an 11 comprising seven white players. Some may scoff at the glib reduction of human beings to the colour of their skin, but in 2020, almost 26 years after the end of apartheid, that is a damning indictment on those charged with the development of the sport, be they government officials, private school coaches or CSA administrators.

    Du Plessis says he does not see colour. This is a ridiculous assertion for a South African sports captain to make, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, what he likely meant was that he was less concerned with the racial makeup of his team than its ability to beat England on the field.

    This is understandable given the awful 2019 he presided over. Humiliation in the Test arena at home to Sri Lanka and away to India supplemented a worst-ever performance at a World Cup. Scandals off the field have heaped more stink on the morass, but a win at Centurion has underlined the impression that new coach Mark Boucher and new director of cricket Graeme Smith have ushered in a new wave of optimism.

    Watching the side train ahead of the New Year’s Test, there is a visible improvement in the energy levels of the Proteas. There are smiles on the faces of players and coaches. A renewed openness with the media has fostered honest dialogue between those within the bubble and those peering in.

    This is a dream scenario for Malan to step in to. That he makes his debut on his home ground must surely add to his level of comfort.

    ‘It’s the perfect story for him,’ Du Plessis said of the latest addition to the Proteas. ‘He understands his game, he feels comfortable in the environment, he feels like he belongs.

    ‘Talking to [batting coach] Jacques Kallis, he is confident where his game is. Now it’s just about backing him.’

    That makes it three 30-year-old debutants in two matches for the Proteas. According to Du Plessis, this points to a healthy domestic structure that provides players with the opportunity to develop their skills and then make the step up when they’re ready, rather than have to rush through a fallow system.

    ‘Two years ago we were looking around where the next batter was going to come from,’ Du Plessis said. ‘Now we’ve got a lot of guys who have scored a lot of runs, big hundreds. That is how you judge batters in the domestic game. That is when you can trust the system.’

    Photo: BackPagePix

    Post by