Rewriting the legacy of the Proteas?
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JOHANNESBURG - THE word ‘legacy’ popped up twice on my radar this week.
The first was Netflix reminding me that it was the first anniversary of its broadcast of ‘the Last Dance,’ the excellent 10-part documentary on the Chicago Bulls’ championship years in the 1990s.
It is widely regarded as having enhanced Michael Jordan’s legacy, as one of the greatest basketball players ever and one of the most influential athletes of any era.
The second reminder of legacy came from reading Mark Boucher’s submission to Cricket SA’s Social Justice and Nation Building project. Boucher has become one of the central figures at the hearings.
It was always likely to be the case given his extended playing career and later his coaching one, which has seen him become the Proteas head coach.
“It is distressing to me, that while we may have achieved many of our goals on the field in my playing days, we did not have a team environment where all the players felt comfortable and valued.
“Had we had a better environment we would undoubtedly have achieved more on the field. This is unfortunate and regrettable,” Boucher admitted.
He was part of what is arguably one of the best periods in the history of the national team.
In 2008 the team Boucher was a part of drew a series in India, won a Test series in England - the first time a South African team had won there in 43 years - and later that year, South Africa won a Test series in Australia for the first time ever.
It was by any historic standard, a remarkable year which laid the foundation for South Africa’s dominance in the Test format over the next six years.
But as Boucher implies in that submission; how should that period be viewed now?
Ashwell Prince, a central figure in that team, who had one of his best years as a Test batsman, testified to the SJN that he did not play for his team, rather for himself and people who’d historically been denied opportunities in South Africa because of apartheid.
Just a few months after that historic triumph in Australia, Prince was shoddily treated by selectors, team management and CSA, for the home series.
He initially didn’t get his place back in the side, despite that being team policy for players returning from injury, then when Graeme Smith missed the last Test, Prince was told he would captain the team, but then that he’d have to open the batting, a role he was not comfortable with.
He understandably told CSA he would no longer captain, if he didn’t have power to decide where he could bat.
Prince has stated, that rather than his time in the South African team, his most enjoyable years as a player were at English County, Lancashire.
It does leave questions about the legacy of that team, a group which has often been cited as the example for future generations of Proteas to emulate.
Sure, they achieved extraordinary successes on the field, but in 20 years time, if a documentary gets made, how will that team be viewed?