Cricket: Race dispute mars Test

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The Independent Online
STEVE TSHWETE, South Africa's Sports minister, has criticised his country's cricket selectors for snubbing black players in the squad for the fourth Test against the West Indies, which starts in Cape Town tomorrow.

Tshwete is annoyed that, with South Africa 3-0 up in a five Test series, no attempt has been made to experiment with emerging talent to balance a white-dominated side. "This was a good opportunity to let a talented youngster have a chance to play," he said.

Tshwete claimed the repeated exclusion of black players from the national side was denying them the chance to improve skills and gain experience. Ali Bacher, the managing director of the United Cricket Board (UCB), said he was disappointed by Tshwete's comments. He was planning to challenge the minister when the pair attended a black cricket tournament in the Eastern Cape town of Fort Beaufort yesterday.

"The politicians must have confidence in us," Bacher said. For him and his fellow cricket administrators, recent criticism has come as a shock. Previously, cricket was hailed as a model sport because of its commitment to black development. Tshwete himself chaired the talks between rival black and white cricket bodies which led to the formation of the UCB in 1991.

A picture of Tshwete shedding tears of joy as he hugged the batsman Peter Kirsten after South Africa had beaten the champions, Australia, in their first World Cup match in Sydney in 1992 epitomised cricket's status as a unifying force in the new South Africa. Ironically, at the time it was an all-white team with no player of colour anywhere near contention for a place in the side.

In the past year, though, four coloured or black cricketers have represented the country, including the fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, the first black African to play Test cricket for South Africa. The mixed-race men Herschelle Gibbs and Paul Adams have also played in Tests and have both been selected for tomorrow's Test. Roger Telemachus, another coloured player, has played in one-day internationals.

National age group teams have become racially mixed, with an average of about 40 per-cent black players. Thami Tsolekile, a black African from Cape Town, will captain the South African Under-19 team on a tour of Pakistan this month.

Early last year the UCB drew up guidelines for the national selectors, who were told they should include players of colour in national teams. A monitoring committee was set up with the power to request the selectors to think again, or, when a series was already decided, to direct them to pick players of colour.

The monitoring committee approved the team for tomorrow's Test but this did not satisfy Tshwete or his fellow African National Congress politician, Mluleki George, the chairman of the National Sports Council. "The time is drawing near when we will have to take action," George said.