Against the backdrop of increasing racial polarisation in South African cricket, a men’s squad of 32 will attend a culture camp in the Kruger National Park next week. The group will have a workshop around the team’s identity and environment and outline performance goals.
The players who will be part of the camp are: Aiden Markram, Andile Phehlukwayo, Anrich Nortje, Beuran Hendricks, Bjorn Fortuin, Daryn Dupavillon, David Miller, Dean Elgar, Dwaine Pretorius, George Linde, Glenton Stuurman, Heinrich Klaasen, Janneman Malan, Jon-Jon Smuts, Junior Dala, Kagiso Rabada, Keegan Petersen, Keshav Maharaj, Kyle Verryenne, Lungi Ngidi, Lutho Sipamla, Pieter Malan, Pite Van Biljon, Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks, Rudi Second, Senuran Muthusamy, Sisanda Magala, Tabraiz Shamsi, Temba Bavuma, Zubayr Hamza .
The gathering comes in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement’s collision with South African cricket, which saw 24 players take a knee and wear armbands with the BLM slogan on it at an exhibition 3TC match in July and has led to an explosion of allegations of racial discrimination. Former players including Ashwell Prince, Makhaya Ntini and most recently, Thami Tsolekile, have appeared on select media detailing their experiences of exclusion in the game.
Many of their, and others’ stories, took place under the leadership of current director of cricket Graeme Smith who, on Thursday, issued a personal statement in response. Smith has maintained that he was not aware of, and surprised by, the claims being made now but has committed himself to working towards change. Smith is also expected to attend the camp.
Smith was a key part of the team’s previous culture camp, held a decade ago, in 2010. Then, the “Protea Fire,” brand was born which was premised on the idea of resilience because a protea flower is often the first to bloom after a bushfire. It is also South Africa’s national flower. At the time, it was also seen as a symbol of unity.
“Despite the reality of our diverse backgrounds, religious beliefs and social upbringings, our common understanding has created a common purpose in the team that is built on our passion to represent South Africa,” Hashim Amla said in 2014.
That same reality is being spoken about much more in the current climate, albeit not necessarily by current players. Lungi Ngidi was the first to offer an opinion on BLM when asked a question about it at a press conference after he was named CSA’s T20 player of the year at their annual awards. Ngidi said he hoped his national teammates would support the BLM movement like the rest of the world. That prompted criticism from four former national players – all white – who demanded Ngidi show the same support for the fight against farm murders.
Ngidi received support from 31 former players of colour and five current coaches, from Amla and then from his national team-mates. Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, Dwaine Pretorius, Anrich Nortje and Marizanne Kapp all allied themselves with the BLM movement and everyone involved in the 3TC, including Smith, participated in gestures on the day. Since then, the conversation in South African cricket has been divided along racial lines and CSA have formed a social justice and nation-building (SJN) committee to address past injustices.
While the culture camp is not directly related to the activities of the SJN, issues of unity are expected to be high on the agenda. “We felt it was important for guys to come together to engage on some of the critical issues around the team elements that we feel needs attention,” Khomotso Volvo Masubelele, the team manager said in a statement released by CSA late on Saturday afternoon. ” What we are going to be focusing on is matters around team identity, team environment, the performance measures and models we want to put in place for the seasons to come and really for the guys to be able to come with a blueprint that they will be able to own, understand and something that resonates with them.”
ESPNcricinfo understands that the coaching staff and some administrations, including acting CEO Dr Jacques Faul, will also be involved. CSA named a 45-man High Performance training squad on June 29, but not all of those players will be at culture camp. Imran Tahir, for example, will not be in attendance because he is playing at the CPL.