After sending my letter to the management of the 2019 team, I read with interest the controversy surrounding the selection of Philander for the World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand, coupled with the intention of Cricket South Africa to increase the quota of players of colour in both the provincial and franchise teams (which was announced a day after the semi-final loss).
A system consists of a social, economic and political domain. There is an inter-connected fabric of the parts (ideas) that make up the whole and if ideas continually clash, then the cohesiveness of the whole will be threatened.
The political level of a system defines what rules and regulations need to be applied to ‘what, when, where and how’ people associate and interact. Since political processes have to do with controlling energy and information flow, the system will become stuck and restricted over time if there is continual political interference.
Given that the system is sensitive to prescription and manipulation, most political interventions tend to create unbalance, mistrust and subversion. And with this, there will be issues or ‘hotspots’ that can not be spoken about. The system will begin to shut down on an informational level. While everyone in the system will be aware of these ‘unspokens’, no one will dare to verbalise or speak about them. It will be too emotionally dangerous and unsafe to do so. Only an outsider will have the freedom and maneuverability to mention or talk about the ‘unsaid’.
The paradox of ongoing political interference is that other problems on other levels are created for the system. As a case in point, the loss against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final highlights the paradox of how a born and bred South African player (Grant Elliott was developed and nurtured in the system), played a significant part for his adopted nation to beat the very system that had excluded (or rejected) him.
While young black South African cricketers need to be cared for and nurtured, so do all young aspiring South African cricketers need care and encouragement. No distinction along racial lines should ever be made. The loss of young white aspiring South African players to other cricket nations is already happening, and is likely to increase if the quota of players of colour increases. This is as much of a serious problem as is the need to create opportunity for youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. The challenge is to have a process of inclusion where everyone feels that they belong.
Administration, operation (playing) and observation (public and media) levels are inter-connected. If the administration of Cricket South Africa cannot free themselves of linear, prescriptive thinking then it is unlikely that the team of 2019 will be able to shift their old thinking patterns. More of the ‘same old, same old‘ can then be expected and in the process the observing nation may lose hope and interest in the team. Without public and sponsorship support there will be no emotional and observational context for the team to grow in. Without this support, the team will wither and shrink. The constant reference to ‘making the nation proud and wanting to win for the nation’ by AB de Villiers, highlights his acute awareness of this. The administration needs to seriously consider this. Applying short-sighted, simplistic thinking to the complex issue of inequality may unleash processes that threaten the fabric of the national team that is expected to perform at its highest level. Because systems act in waves, circles and spirals there is a tipping point when the system starts a decaying and fragmenting process. If this unfolds, not even a passionate, committed and loyal captain such as AB de Villiers will have the energy to hold things together.