The hue of skin color is least expected in the Gentlemen's Game, but the realities can be far from any idealisms. In the African sub-continent, the underbelly of cricket playing countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa has a patchwork of decades old plays of Black and White. The Zimbabwean daily struck the right chord to the world when it declared that Masakadza proved the racists wrong with his first century in the month of July in 2001. It was an occasion in Zimbabwe, from the prism of racism, when Hamilton Masakadza became the first back batsmen from Zimbabwe to hit a century. Such a denomination was not even necessary if the spat of Black and White was not there. But again, the reality is far from being ideal.
Apparently, in Zimbabwe, it is cricket that became the worst victim of such racial slurs. The international team has shrunken to the bottoms of world cricket ranking and worst, they even lost their berth in the World Cup. There can be an argument that if Zimbabwe is abandoned by the international community because of the internal tenacity to attain the color balance within the team or even to make the black color stronger as an identity of the team. However, there is no relevant logic that derives this conclusion, because the Color game is merely an internal matter of the team, while the global cricket fraternity only wants big games with big sixes and fours irrespective of the skin color of a cricketer.
Then what has gone wrong with Zimbabwe? It is actually the politics of cricket administration that has played the tug-o-war right from the selection procedure of coaches to players. The colored players in the team have raised concerns over time that they are just sick and tired of sitting on the benches, even after been picked in the national squad, while the whites dominate the XI that plays. This being said, the new wave of racial issues seems to have struck South Africa as well. Makhaya Ntini, the fast bowler who rocked the world once, claimed that he was barred from being the Coach of South Africa because of his race. Ntini is now the interim coach of Zimbabwe team. Thus, another question is, if South Africa's cricket would face the same fate like Zimbabwe? There were also editorials in newspapers questioning the appointment of Mark Boucher as the coach of Titans, as he lacked prior experience as a coach.
A quota mechanism can reduce racial discrimination, if they exist in the system. This leads to another complexity of dealing with selection. Should the reservation be on blacks or on whites, or the rule to bring 50-50 players on either side. Such a system would further damage the play not only because its inherent division among players, but also about the future of players with the team. Heath Streak highlighted the situation as the Zimbabwe Captain, as there were no official quota system for Blacks or Whites, while, unofficially, the blacks had to be given a fairly high preference above the whites. Eventually, such condition made the way for collective resignation of players from the team and cricket hit the rock bottom. South Africa took a clear approach to the selection procedure by formalizing the quota rule to include a fair proportion of both black and white players. This is expected to attain a balance, saving cricket in the country.
It is true that politics should not play its part in cricket, however, there is another counter argument that follows. If it is more blacks or more whites in cricket teams of countries dominated by both, who is going to represent whom. Racial prejudice is such a thing that flows in the bones. Black fans would certainly think twice to cheer up the white batsmen from their country if they feel that they are being discriminated through the very game. This goes same for white fans as well. Such games will be quite a doom with stadiums showing off nothing but the pathetic nature, of which we humans are made of.
There are many unfortunate incidences both in South Africa and Zimbabwe that highlighted the play of race in cricket. The best way to tackle this is, however, somewhere else. It is the equal opportunity at grass root level, especially to the underprivileged. Certainly, it is a time-consuming process as it is not cricket building, it is nation building, that would ultimately come up to the cricket fraternity. It is a positive thing that both Zimbabwe and South Africa are focusing on the growth of the game at grassroots levels reaping varying degrees of success. It can be expected that after decades, the landscape would be greener rather than being black and white.
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