Proteas final

Proteas lost to India in the T20 World Cup final. Image: CSA

Opinion: Lack of Black players in the T20 Proteas WC squad ONLY makes sense if…

Only one black African player was included in the 15-man Proteas T20 World Cup squad. Lungi Ngidi was omitted despite good T20 record.

Proteas final

Proteas lost to India in the T20 World Cup final. Image: CSA

The selection of only one black African player in the Proteas’ 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup has been met with criticism by some fans.

In the previous 50-over World Cup, the Proteas had four black African players, including Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, and captain Temba Bavuma. Since 2003, the Proteas have included at least one Black African player in their side. The emergence of Rabada, Bavuma, and Ngidi in a short period was a result of increasingly aggressive transformation targets. However, players like Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala did not perform well despite having opportunities in national colours.

For the past three World Cups, the Proteas have mostly had three black African players in their sqaud. However, this was not the case when Proteas white ball coach Rob Walter named his 15-man squad. Rabada made it to the squad, while Ngidi missed out. The lack of transformation in the squad is unsurprising given that no other Black African player impressed in the SA Global T20 this year, and only Rabada featured in the IPL.

Some fans unhappy with only one black player in Proteas squad

South Africa’s shortage of quality top-order black African batsmen is a concern. The country also lacks Coloured and Indian batters in domestic level. Over the past 20-30 years, fewer than 20 black African players have represented the Proteas, with 70% of them being bowlers. Bavuma is the only batsman who has earned a place in the Test and ODI team through merit. The grassroots level is where the problem lies. Young emerging black batsmen are challenging to find in SA domestic cricket.

Not enough has been done to develop young Black(African, Coloured, or Indian) batsmen. In the bowling department, players like Kwena Maphaka emerge each year. Having a list of 10 young emerging black bowlers doesn’t help transformation at the Proteas level. If you are only recognised as a bowler, there can only be two or three slots in the team. However, seven batting slots are open but are mostly occupied by white batters. Except for Reeza Hendricks, all the top six/seven batters are white.

T20 is a batsman’s game, and, unsurprisingly, Proteas’ batting lineup consists mostly of white hitters. Tristan Stubbs, Aidan Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, and Ryan Rickelton have all earned their stripes and have a job to do in the T20 tournament. Ngidi was unlucky to miss out, and his inclusion in the squad would have prevented the debate about the lack of black African players in the Proteas. Ngidi and Rabada have been spearheads of the bowling attack for half a decade, and players like Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortjie, and Gerald Coetzee impressed when given a chance.

Walters also touched on the issue of the lack of emerging black talent in the Proteas.

The issue of transformation remains a big topic in SA cricket

“My no. 1 imperative is to create a winning Proteas team,” he said when asked about the lack of black players.

At the time I have to pick the team who l believe will give us the best chance of doing that.

“The system really needs to up the ante so that in 6, 12 months or 2 years time and particularly the 2027 World Cup at home, that the representation and demographics of the team looks a bit different.”

Cricket SA has not done enough to develop young black batters good enough to play for the Proteas. Batters such as Donovan Ferreira, Kyle Verreyne and Ruan de Swardt are destined to deliver if given a chance. For now, Tony de Zorzi is the only black top order batsman in the Proteas set-up under 30.