Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Cricket and Politics

Yesterday this article was posted in the Guardian. At first glance, I was pleased, because it recognises the vital link between cricket and politics that I have harped on about at length on this blog. It refers specifically to racial tensions over "quota" policies, which I discussed in this post about a week ago.

The problem is that it epitomises the lefty wrangling over empire that continues to portray England as an inherently racist nation. Take this comment about Zimbabwe, for example:

I am not arguing that Robert Mugabe is a good guy, but the global cricketing view is that Zimbabwe should continue to feature on the international fixture lists. Only England has failed to fulfil fixtures in Zimbabwe (during the 2003 World Cup). The most recent tour went ahead only after much indecision.

Could England's ambiguity be driven by the fact that the schism in Zimbabwe's national side has been between the white players and the non-white players (with the honorable exception of Henry Olonga), with the white players being the excluded.
In short, the ECB are hopelessly racist, and wouldn't have taken any sort of a moral stand had it been white people dispossessing black people. That the ECB is basically a retirement home for unreconstructed colonialists. Quite apart from the fact that many non-white players expressed sympathy with the rebels, but daren't openly rebel for fear of what might happen to them or their families, this is offensive rubbish and the author should be ashamed of himself.
Similarly, he attempts to discredit Kevin Pietersen's desire to play for England by dismissing him as a racist, although in heavily disguised language.
But back to Pietersen, who claims that his switch in nationality is linked to the Englishness of his mother, conveniently ignoring that his father was an Afrikaner, that he played for Natal and that his transfer only came after the "quota" incidents
Everyone knew from the moment of Pietersen moving to England that the "quota" incidents were a prime motivating factor in his decision. As far as I recall, he was quite explicit on this matter.
But worse than this is the implication that racial quotas on whatever level are acceptable. In a previous article I posited the hypothesis that a weakened side is perhaps the best chance for South Africa to change its selection policy to reflect the "rainbow nation". Controversial I know, but when quotas are being introduced semi-officially at a lower level than the national team, then there are not equal opportunities for everyone. And if you are going to complain about people being denied opportunity because of the colour of their skin, it doesn't matter whether that colour is black or white.
I don't deny there are other, infrastructural, problems that hold back black players in South Africa. But that doesn't justify a policy of racial discrimination on any grounds. Instead prejudices have to be fought, and the real problem - lack of access to good facilities (a hangover from apartheid) - must be addressed. To justify one form of racism while launching attacks on another is hypocrisy of the worst kind.