Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi says the recent ‘culture camp’ in the Kruger National Park helped the national team to establish the necessary values to tackle racial injustices in cricket.
A high-performance squad of 32 players spent four days at the Skukuza rest camp last week as part of a team-building exercise. Players were given the opportunity to speak about key issues, mainly support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has resulted in divided public opinion across South African society.
Ngidi urged his teammates prior to last month’s Solidarity Cup to show their support for the BLM movement.
‘With the conversation around BLM, I think the most important thing is it’s opened communication and helped a lot of people understand [where others were coming from],’ the 24-year-old said on Monday.
‘The main thing of the BLM conversation within South Africa about race, transformation and equality, is that it’s highlighted a lot of things that need to be addressed and for anyone who didn’t understand, guys were willing to communicate and explain, so I think it has definitely helped within the team. I think the main thing is helping people be able to speak about issues that they find uncomfortable.’
Ngidi’s comments weren’t entirely welcomed by former Proteas players Boeta Dippenaar and Pat Symcox, who both criticised him for not also throwing his support behind the farm-murder crisis in South Africa.
Since then, a group of over 30 former black Proteas players and senior coaches have come out to defend Ngidi’s stance and have had certain discussions with Cricket South Africa about racial issues of the past.
Ngidi, however, is adamant that an inclusive and non-racist environment is needed for players to be able to perform at their best.
‘For rules of engagement, I feel that people should be allowed to be themselves without fear of being judged and, for me, that’s because I know I play my best cricket when I’m being myself. If I can’t be myself, I don’t feel like I’m giving 100% of who I am and what I can do. So, for me that was one of the most important things – to be able to come into an environment and not feel like you have to conform to a certain way in order fit in. We accept everyone the way they are, and everyone is different, which is what makes the team so great and the environment so great,’ he continued.
Last week’s camp was based on three primary groups adopted by the team to pride themselves on – team identity, team environment and team performance.
‘The updated values system is very relevant to our country and the type of team that we want to build. Belonging – everyone needs to feel welcome, empathy and respect – once you understand someone a lot better, you can relate and conversate and have open discussions [with them], so these new value systems are very important and, in the end, we felt that these are what we are going to use moving forward.
‘With South Africa being such a diverse nation, we actually found that it’s one of our strengths and why we’re such a resilient team,’ Ngidi added.