South African cricket to abandon race-based selection

Last updated 10:01 04/12/2008

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South Africa's controversial selection policy on coloured players is set to be scrapped in three years after the resounding success within the national side, which now fields top performing non-white players ranked among the world's best.

Plans have been made to continue the "target transformation policy" - often referred to as a "quota system" - for the next three years before discarding it for merit-based selection.

Presently, Cricket South Africa has set a selection target of four coloured players for the Proteas and its six domestic franchises.

"The goal is to get merit-based selection at all levels of cricket," CSA chief executive Gerald Majola told Fairfax Media last night.

"We have decided to continue with the target transformation policy for the next three years, with a review at the end of each year. At the end of the three years, we hope we can then move to merit-based selection across the board. We really believe this has worked well for us."

The Proteas have selected seven players of colour in their 15-man squad to tour Australia from next week: Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Jean-Paul Duminy, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Monde Zondeki.

The policy has prompted much debate and controversy since it was adopted in 1998.

On that occasion, South African selectors were instructed by senior board officials to include Herschelle Gibbs, a coloured batsman, in the Test XI to face the West Indies. Gibbs was the only non-white player in the Proteas line-up at the time.

The so-called quota system has continued to polarise opinion in South Africa, most notably on the eve of the Sydney Test in 2002. Jacques Rudolph, a talented white batsman who has since abandoned South African cricket to sign as a Kolpak player with Yorkshire, was dropped on the morning of the match for the coloured Justin Ontong at the behest of the late Percy Sonn, then CSA's president.

Critics viewed the move as tokenistic, but CSA defended Ontong's selection by arguing the fight for racial equality was more important than sport.

The transformation policy was in the headlines as recently as February, when CSA president Norman Arendse refused to approve South Africa's squad for Bangladesh because it originally included only four players of colour. Ardendse's stance placed him sharply at odds with Proteas coach Mickey Arthur, and the pair became embroiled in a bitter, public feud that resulted in senior CSA officials losing their veto power in selection matters.

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England captain Kevin Pietersen cited the quota system as the reason he left South Africa in 2000. In his autobiography, Crossing The Boundary, he wrote: "I was dropped because the quota system was brought into South African cricket to positively discriminate in favour of 'players of colour' ... If you do well, you should play on merit. That goes for any person of any colour."

 

- Sydney Morning Herald

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