We always had cricket in our blood, says Rushdie Magiet
Cricket writer ZAAHIER ADAMS chats to former selector and Cape Town legend Rushdie Magiet
How could I explain our stance to a young child? And remember I hail from Claremont – a cricket- and rugbyloving community that is just a stone throw away from Newlands – we had grown up going to Newlands.
Joining up with the NSC was basically a decision to structure sport, under what a lot of Sacos supporters did not like, the ANC.
They were not all ANC supporters and we know that. We followed because if this is going to happen, and it is going to help our sport, then by all means we must do that.
Most of the executive of our Board, there were 12 of us, at least nine of us were on the NSC board. You worked closely with Dr Ali Bacher in the formative years of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (precursor to CSA) in the roll-out of the Mini-Cricket programmes around the country. How did you manage to trust a man that just a few years previously was responsible for luring “rebel” teams to tour South Africa during apartheid? It is not for me to judge that. My national executive had decided to go that route and I carried out instructions.
I was part of the Western in relation to how he built his innings. I am not saying we slogged the ball all the time at practice, but he brought a different level of discipline. A large part of your cricket career was served as a selector both under the auspices of the WPCB and later on CSA’S national panel from 1991-1999 before serving as the Proteas convenor until 2001. Did you always feel that there was an extra pressure from your community to ensure that black players were granted opportunities? I wouldn’t say pressure. I knew I had a responsibility. We were the officials. I was the guy on the playing side of the old Board.
Obviously it was my responsibility because not all the officials were cricketers. It was to a very large extent my responsibility. BUT, I wasn’t going to do things willy-nilly. My integrity as a cricketer was at stake as well. The merit of our cricket was not the same as their merit. As a selector you had to fight to get a black player in the team. It was disheartening because we are all there to select cricketers on merit. But their merit was different to our merit. I had tremendous struggles with long to persuade Percy.
I then asked Haroon to go and see Percy. He came back and he also said Percy wouldn’t budge. We then sent Shaun Pollock, the captain, and he too returned, saying we have to play with the team the president wants. Finish en klaar!
Shaun wasn’t very happy about the situation, but he accepted that was protocol and said there was nothing we could do about it. It never ended there, though.
When I went on to the field in Sydney where the toss was taking place and I needed to hand over the team to the coach and captain, the coach (Graham Ford) refused and said ‘I don’t want to be a selector anymore!’ This is a national selector of a country and he tells me he doesn’t want to be a selector thirty minutes before the game!! I went to Shaun and he replied that he would agree with anything we do. We looked at the pitch and decided to select two spinners and left out seam bowler Steve Elworthy. The Aussies, with Allan Border, as their convenor, also selected two spinners and our decision was vindicated. A similar situation transpired ahead of the Proteas’ World Cup semi-final in Auckland last year when drama unfolded due to Vernon Philander being selected ahead of Kyle Abbott. Regardless of the details of the incident, when you hear that matters like this are still taking place 14 years later does it disappoint you? I’ve said it off-the-record many, many times. This situation is exactly the same. The hearts haven’t changed. The way I had to fight for players in selection meetings. I was viewed as black selector. I was NEVER a black selector. I always tried to select sides on merit. But whenever I tried to put forward a case for black player, it was never accepted.
However, any white player I put forward, it was readily accepted. And the Auckland situation just made me feel that nothing has changed. I was actually very happy when the Board introduced the quota (target) system in domestic cricket because I know in Natal where Graham Ford was the coach not one Indian or black African player had the opportunity to play for Natal.
The moment he left and the quota system was introduced, the players streamed through the system because they were being given opportunities at that level. I’m not saying just select anyone to play. I was there to ensure black players, when they were good enough to play, they will play. That was my fight. CSA have this week introduced “targets” at international level this week. How does this make you feel? At the time I was very happy that there were no quotas at international level because I believe that your best team must represent your country.
The players we picked deserved to be there. There were no quota players. The same goes with the team now.
If you look at the Proteas now with all their black players, there are no quota players. They are deserving of their place. They are performing. Every single one of them is performing. We must just open our hearts and believe that he deserves to play.
That’s the only we will decide on the merit of the players. However, I can’t disagree with Cricket South Africa’s decision. If that is what they believe, I will support them because obviously they are very unhappy with certain situations because there is still a fight to get every black player into the team. And look how ( Kagiso) Rabada, and ( Temba) Bavuma have performed. How good is Kagiso Rabada actually? He is just amazing. Absolutely amazing. He was only 19 and to perform the way he has at that level is a very mature performance.
I’m thinking ALL ex-cricketers and officials have accepted him. Let me just say something here: If you look at Makhaya Ntini, he was the first South African cricketer to take 10 wickets at Lord’s. Hashim Amla was the first South African Test batsman to score a triple century. Vernon Philander was the fastest bowler to 100 Test wickets. Paul Adams was the fastest South African spin bowler to 100 Test wickets. Rabada’s hattrick on debut! Are all these quota players? C’mon … It has been proven that you must give opportunity. This was my philosophy. Give them a chance. Don’t worry about whether they are too young, their backlift is not right, his run-up is not straight enough. That’s all bull****! Finally, what has given the greatest amount of satisfaction during your time serving the game of cricket? I thoroughly enjoyed my grassroots cricket development. I am a qualified social worker, so that’s close to my heart.
Going around the country, working with kids, down in the Eastern Cape, here in the Western Cape, all the children playing our wonderful game. That is undoubtedly my biggest highlight. On a national level, I think having selected four black players against Australia in 2002 at Newlands was a special moment.
We didn’t win the Test, but each player selected performed admirably. We had been bashed around by Australia all summer and in came Paul Adams and Makhaya Ntini and took eight first Australian innings wickets between them.
They breathed life into us again and we went on to win the next Test in Durban when Herschelle (Gibbs) scored a century and Ashwell Prince batted very well in the second innings.
COMMITTED TO THE CAUSE: Rushdie Magiet promoted the love of cricket among youngsters.