We al­ways had cricket in our blood, says Rushdie Magiet

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

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