The appointment of former Proteas Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher to prominent roles surrounding the national team has drawn criticism from politicians who feel the trio are emblematic of resistance to transformation in South African cricket.
Boucher’s first teams have failed to meet transformation targets, but it may be an excellent time to consider whether the current structure of those targets best serves the game and the people of South Africa.
As things stand, Cricket South Africa has laid out its commitment to transformation by asking the Proteas to meet targets over the season rather than in individual matches.
While the season average method has proven a better fit for the Proteas, allowing greater tactical flexibility, there may be better ways to measure transformation.
A better measure of transformation both at international and franchise level would be to track the number of players of colour contracted centrally to CSA and then at each of the franchises or unions.
It is important to remember that transformation targets should never be the final goal of Cricket South Africa, the Proteas or the Department of Sports and Recreation. These targets serve only to inform whether or not players from disadvantaged backgrounds are being afforded equal opportunities to access the game of cricket.
CSA, in partnership with the government and the wider public, must aim to ensure its grassroots programmes and talent pipeline are accessible to all.
The current targets muddy the progression of players into the national team and fail to allow coaches and captains the freedom to pick their best side.
The targets also discourage the drive to ensure the Proteas stay in line with the best sporting practice when it comes to workload management. Kagiso Rabada is a prime example of this. In the last two years, only one fast bowler has bowled more overs than the Proteas pace kingpin, but resting a ‘fit’ Rabada would be unthinkable because of its effect on targets.
Measuring only how many players are contracted to a particular franchise or earn central contracts may have its pitfalls, but it would allow cricket to assist in the task of nation-building without compromising the integrity of the sport.
Placing targets onto contracts will give a more accurate measure of access to facilities than only taking into account the playing XIs fielded by the Proteas and franchises.
South African cricket cannot ignore the mandate of transformation, but there must be a way for the Proteas to remain competitive and break down the barriers of an oppressive past.
Placing the targets on contracts would provide a more accurate measure of transformation than those based on playing XIs.
Cricket South Africa might kill two birds with one stone if they contract a larger group of players centrally. It could act as a Kolpak deterrent and also give a greater number of players access to world-class support.
The reality is that the Proteas cannot afford not to field their strongest possible XIs at all times. They must keep pace with the so-called big three of India, Australia and England to maintain the professional game in South Africa financially.
An expanded elite pool of players would also allow CSA to let players like Eddie Moore and Kyle Verreynne know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Cricket South Africa will also need to expand its network of hubs and regional performance centres if they are to drive effective transformation. These facilities are intended to provide active feeder systems from mini cricket right through to club level, but as things stand franchises and the Proteas continue to draw players from a small group of elite schools.
If some action can be taken to improve the feeder systems, achieving targets that satisfy government would not prove as problematic as it has been in the past.
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