Hamza can cap fine run – No 100 or not

Bats­man will­ing to graft for runs

Sowetan - - Dipapadi - By Telford Vice

Zubayr Hamza will not be the 100th man to play Test cricket for South Africa even if he is in the XI to take on Pak­istan at the Wan­der­ers to­day.

No, 100 was Nor­man Reid‚ a Western Prov­ince all­rounder and an Ox­ford rugby blue who scored 11 and six and took 2/63 against Aus­tralia at New­lands in Novem­ber 1921 – his only Test.

If Hamza cracks the nod‚ which on the strength of him be­ing wheeled out for a press con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day is likely‚ he will be No 335.

“When I look up to some­one it’s not nec­es­sar­ily the per­son they are‚” Hamza told re­porters. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of a whole lot of peo­ple and what they bring to the game.”

He de­scribed his own game as “at times free-flow­ing but also will­ing to graft – never look­ing the pret­ti­est but I take pride out of the in­nings where there’s a lot of strug­gle”.

By the sound of him Hamza is as South African as koe­sisters. Or koek­sis­ters. South Africans who har­bour a sweet tooth will tell you those are not nearly the same thing. But they are part of the same frac­tured na­tional cul­ture.

What Hamza would be if he plays to­day is the 100th Test player capped by some­thing called the Proteas‚ which is what Cricket South Africa’s mar­ket­ing de­part­ment would pre­fer you to call what you might pre­fer to think of as the na­tional team.

Both are flawed con­cepts. The Proteas are lit­tle be­yond lo­gos and lip ser­vice‚ and no mere sports team could pos­si­bly rep­re­sent a na­tion. That’s all war is good for.

But the idea that the next oke who makes his Test de­but for Faf du Plessis’s side will be the 100th some­thing or other fits neatly with the sorry state of pub­lic dis­course in South Africa‚ where the slaugh­ter­ing of a sheep on a beach be­comes more prom­i­nent than peo­ple on the same beach be­ing treated like an­i­mals by hired goons.

In­stead of learn­ing from the list of 334 men who have played Test cricket for a team that‚ rightly or not‚ call them­selves South Africa‚ we try to fid­dle with the num­bers. The lessons are there for all to see‚ if we would only look.

The first 247 of the 334 were white‚ an in­deli­ble stain on our his­tory and a fact that still gets in the way of cricket be­ing recog­nised for what it is: a sport played by South Africans of all flavours.

No 248 was Omar Henry but an­other 20 would be picked be­fore Makhaya Ntini be­came the first black African se­lected.

Seventy-six play­ers have been blooded since the end of white rule in 1994. Fifty of them – 65.8% – have been of the same race as an es­ti­mated 7.8% of South Africa’s pop­u­la­tion: white.

Only nine‚ or 11.8%‚ have been black Africans – who make up al­most 80% of the pop­u­la­tion.

Which­ever way you spin it the non­sense that the in­tegrity of South Africa’s team is be­ing un­der­mined by racially skewed se­lec­tion re­mains non­sense.

Some of the 334’s sto­ries are more com­pli­cated than oth­ers. No 235‚ Egyp­tian-born Athana­sios Traicos‚ bet­ter known by his sec­ond name‚ John‚ had three Tests for South Africa in 1970 and four for Zim­babwe in 1992 and 1993.

Bloem­fontein-born Ke­pler Wes­sels‚ No 246‚ earned 24 caps for Aus­tralia be­fore play­ing 16 for South Africa.

No 308 is Alviro Petersen‚ who has re­turned to com­men­tary after serv­ing a two-year ban for his role in the spot-fix­ing scan­dal that blighted the 2015 fran­chise T20 com­pe­ti­tion.

The fact that he’s back in the game will cur­dle the blood of some cricket peo­ple. But he’s done the time for his crime. How would it be fair to pun­ish him fur­ther?

Petersen is do­ing bet­ter than Nor­man Reid‚ who‚ ac­cord­ing to his Wis­den obit­u­ary‚ “died at Cape Town in tragic cir­cum­stances in June [1947]‚ aged 56”.

Closer to the truth is that Reid was shot through the head in his bed by his wife‚ who then killed her­self.

Clearly‚ No 100’s time was up.

/GALLO IM­AGES/ LEE WAR­REN

Proteas’ Zubayr Hamza is likely to make his Test de­but to­day.

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