NO REST FOR THE WICKET
The national team was a ‘lonely place’, testifies Ex-Proteas batter Ashwell Prince
At the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings, another former Proteas player has testified about alleged incidents of racial discrimination during his playing days.
Former Proteas batter Ashwell Prince is the latest black cricketer to testify at the Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) hearings and make revelations of a disunited Proteas team during his time.
The inquiry, facilitated by Cricket South Africa (CSA) to investigate racial discrimination in local cricket, has also seen the likes of Aaron Phangiso, Paul Adams, Thami Tsolekile and Roger Telemachus testify under oath about their experiences in South African cricket.
Speaking at the beginning of the fifth week of the hearings, which are chaired by veteran advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, Prince recalled how segregated the team environment was during his playing days. This was despite the team enjoying one of its most successful and fruitful periods since the end of apartheid.
“[The national team] was a lonely place. A person knows when a person is welcome and you know when you are not welcome,” said Prince on Monday. “You think you’re playing for your country, that you’re living a dream, but it was no dream.”
The left-handed batter played 66 Tests and 49 one-day internationals (ODIs) for the Proteas.
The 50-overs appearances included the 2007 World Cup, where the Proteas bombed out in the semifinals, trounced by bitter rivals Australia.
The team had in their arsenal some of the best cricketers of their generation, including Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and Makhaya Ntini. They also went into the tournament ranked No 1 in the world.
Prince said the fallout from the disappointment of the team failing to live up to their potential saw fingers of blame pointed at the black players by way of criticising the quota system.
He, alongside Ntini and Herschelle Gibbs, had been vocal about the criticism, which they felt had racial undertones.
“We said: ‘If you think the team lost because of quotas, then scrap the quota system.’ We were firm believers that we were good enough to be in the team, we believed we were better than some white players. If anyone didn’t think so, we wanted them to tell us to our face,” said Prince.
Details of this meeting were later leaked to a national newspaper. Prince said he believed their words were twisted to put them in a bad light in the public eye.
“It was an attempt to push a narrative in the media that suits white people. And then wanting to drive that narrative by using black players in the team – that it is Ntini, Gibbs and Prince that are saying these things.
“I didn’t care if I played another game for the country or not. For me, that was not a team, because that was the kind of environment we played in – we were never one, never.
“We believed we deserved to be in that team, we were prepared to go toe to toe with any player of any colour to prove our worth to play for the national team.”
Prince’s testimony follows that of former Proteas left-arm unorthodox spin bowler Paul Adams, who told the inquiry two weeks ago that some white teammates used to call him “brown shit” while on international duty.
“I was called ‘brown shit’, and it often happened in fines meetings after we won a game, and there was a song that was sung: ‘Brown shit in the ring, tra-la-la-la.’ When you are playing for your country, you’re in that [moment of] victory, you don’t make sense of it, you just go along with it, brush it off, but it’s actually blatant racism,” he said.
Proteas coach Mark Boucher, whom Adams alleged was one of the guilty parties in the aforementioned incidents, has since responded by saying he will cooperate with the SJN.
“I have been asked by the SJN to submit a written reply to the various allegations made during the hearings that have taken place,” Boucher said in a statement on Friday.
“The documents that I have been furnished with, as well as the various reports in the media, require my full attention and consideration, which I will be giving to them over the course of the next week.
“My intentions are to cooperate fully with all requests made by the ombudsman, so that the objectives of the SJN can be achieved.
“The allegations in the media currently are hurtful, factually incorrect and do not serve the greater good of our country or the intentions of the SJN in mending past hurts and building relations. I will not be commenting any further until the process with the SJN has been completed.”
CSA expects Ntsebeza to hand over a report of his findings and recommendations at the end of September 2021, after which they will decide on a way forward. DM
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