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Of black and white

SOUTH Africa is feeling the fallout from the West Indies first full tour with politicians and some cricket administrators calling for the inclusion of black or coloured players in the team. This follows an all-white team doing duty in the first Test.

Believe me, if this weren't a tour by an all-black West Indies team, these questions would not arise, certainly not with the intensity they have. The Australians toured in 1997, there was talk of tokenism in the inclusion of Paul Adams, but there was nothing like the level of noise one hears now.

The fact that sports and politics are closely linked has never been better illustrated. Brian Lara played his little games only because he knew how important this tour was to South Africa. And predictably, Ali Bacher had a lot to do with smoothing out some outsize egos in order that the tour could proceed.

South African politicians are also aware of the importance of the tour. That is why they have chosen to raise the issue. If it had been a white team which was touring, then I doubt very much that the issue would have been raised at all. At the most there would have been the occasional report by a left-leaning reporter.

But this tour is supposed to do a lot for South African cricket. It is expected to act as a source of encouragement for youngsters in the townships and for those who are part of the coaching programmes. It is expected to demonstrate to aspiring blacks and coloureds that all the myths about the superiority of white cricketers are just that. It is expected that an influx of the majority population into cricket will serve as an unifying influence. Hence the hullabaloo.

I think that the cricket administrators and politicians who are calling for inclusion of blacks and coloureds are unaware that racism cuts both ways. There is something called reverse racism and that appears to be in operation here. Why should a man be included in a team because of his colour? Merit should be the sole determining factor.

Shaun Pollock is not the vice captain because his dad is among the selectors. He is there because he a damn good bowler and a pretty handy bat. The same way, I doubt whether any black or coloured cricketer worth his place in international cricket would want to be picked because of his colour. No, he would want to be picked because he was good enough to make the grade.

The lessons of the South African rugby fiasco do not apply here. That set-up had people who were unwilling to give up the white supremacist approach and wanted to keep the team an all-white one, no matter how many good and talented blacks the system threw up. And when the supremacists were exposed, they made their intentions clear in no uncertain terms.

I don't think the same applies to the cricket set-up. No, these folks are trying to do their best and incorporate players from across the entire spectrum. But they are also interested in picking the best team and winning in order that the national team stays at the top or as close to it as possible. There is no point in having a mixed team which finishes at the bottom because it has sought to be representative of the population.

The quota system has ruined many a team. India and Pakistan and fine examples. The West Indies is another. No matter what anyone may say about representation, there is a need to have the best men out there playing for the country. The South African selectors are a balanced lot and it might be a good thing if they were left alone to do their job. The emergence of talent in any part of the community can only happen over time. Anybody who is over-eager to put people in the frontline would do them a disservice. Class will finally show.