Dubai: Will Quinton de Kock, the most accomplished batsman in the South African team in the absence of the likes of Faf du Plessis or retired AB de Villiers, be a part of the ongoing T20 World Cup in the UAE anymore? This has been the simmering question since the former captain refused to ‘take the knee’ before their match against the West Indies on Tuesday as per Cricket South Africa’s directive - deciding to pull out of the match for personal reasons instead.
The decision, a matter of personal choice, snowballed into a political story with far greater ramifications than the match itself. As the cricketing establishment of the rainbow nation are pondering their next move for what may be seen as a violation of the board’s ‘directive,’ there is enough apprehension if De Kock’s move will reopen the old scar in their administration and set back their efforts of going forward towards a discrimination-free society.
For those not in the know, De Kock’s stance vis-a-vis the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is a known one as he was the only South African international cricketer who did fall in line with this symblic gesture through last year - nor did he do it during their opening Super-12 match against Australia.
MORE ON T20 WORLD CUP
- ICC T20 World Cup: South Africa get new heroes in their win over West Indies
- ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup: Virat Kohli should have spoken up for Mohammad Shami
- ICC T20 World Cup: We couldn’t nail it in the back-end of the game, says Kane Williamson
- T20 World Cup in UAE: Gulf News experts and Mr Cricket UAE analyse victories for South Africa and Pakistan
- T20 World Cup 2021: Why the big guns Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo failed to fire for West Indies
In the first game in Abu Dhabi, players were free to express their solidarity in three different ways (taking the knee, standing to attention or raising a fist). After that match, it was felt that all of them had to take a united stand — taking the knee — so Cricket South Africa (CSA) sent out a directive to that effect. De Kock then conveyed his decision to the board that he would rather sit out the match if it was manadatory.
One is yet to hear De Kock’s side of the story - and he could well be suffering from a persecution complex of any sorts in light of their board’s directive of making it a must in the upcoming matches of the World Cup. Temba Bavuma, the skipper who finds himself in an unique position being the first full-time coloured skipper of their national team, dealt the situation with a lot more maturity in the post-match press conference when he said as an ‘adult,’ De Kock was free to take his own decision.
It is easy to see, actually, when you look at somebody’s face, that the person doesn’t want to look you in the eyes - might be your coach, your captain. It tells you straightaway that they don’t really appreciate you being there
The situation is a highly sensitive one for Cricket South Africa as they have a number of former greats occupying senior positions like Graeme Smith as the Drector of Cricket, his erstwhile teammate Mark Boucher as the Head Coach while someone like AB de Villiers has sough time to frame their responses. A delicate situation this - but Cricket South Africa should handle the situation with care as as not to lose a proven performer like De Kock to international cricket for taking a political position.
It’s relevant to mention here that the governing bodies of sport like Fifa or the ICC do not condone taking up a political position by carrying messages on their person - taking the knee is seen in a different connotation. It’s a symbolic gesture in line with these global sporting bodies’ stance on racism - and De Kock’s stance is ambivalent on the issue.
Makhaya Ntini, the first coloured South African to make their Test team, highlights the plight of post-apartheid South Africa in a recent interview about how he has suffered because of the colour of his skin. ‘‘It is easy to see, actually, when you look at somebody’s face, that the person doesn’t want to look you in the eyes - might be your coach, your captain. It tells you straightaway that they don’t really appreciate you being there,’’ he said in an interview with Michael Holding in the anti-discrimination crusader’s new book ‘Why we kneel, how we rise.’
It’s in this context that De Kock’s stance sets back the efforts in South Africa to hearld a discrimination-free society.