Should Mark Boucher continue as Proteas coach?
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CAPE TOWN - Has Mark Boucher’s role as Proteas coach become untenable after he admitted to participating in racist conduct in the South African team as a player?
The former wicket-keeper responded in a lengthy statement this week to ex-teammate Paul Adams’ submission at the Cricket SA Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) commission hearings recently.
The left-arm wrist-spinner spoke about his experiences during his playing career in the national team, and made mention of the fact that Boucher was among the players who sang a song that described him as a “brown sh*t”.
Adams told the SJN commission that one way of dealing with the matter would be for Boucher and other players to apologise to him and other players of colour who felt discriminated against and marginalised within the team.
But is an apology, which Boucher provided this week while also saying he has reached out to Adams, enough?
Testimonies from other former players such as Makhaya Ntini, Ashwell Prince and Roger Telemachus over the last few months have painted a picture of an unwelcome environment for players of colour in the SA cricket team in the past. To have one of the senior players from that era in Boucher now coaching the Proteas is problematic in a number of ways.
He admitted in his statement that he and the rest of the team had been naive during his playing days “… to deal with the new environment in which we found ourselves”, and went on to say that to his knowledge, “there had not been any briefing or discussion by CSA as to how we deal with the legacy of apartheid … and how we ensure that there is equality, respect, empathy and inclusiveness in the team”.
To put the blame for his behaviour – and that of his fellow white teammates – at the door of CSA is disingenuous on Boucher’s behalf.
How you treat a fellow human being, and especially a teammate in a sports team, is up to you. You shouldn’t need an employer to tell you “Don’t be racist to your black teammates”.
Yes, Boucher is painting a picture of him going with the flow with the rest of the team by engaging in songs that were racist in nature, and offending black teammates, and he apologised for that once more.
He insists that the Proteas team is a different place today, pointing out that workshops and discussions have been held to “create an atmosphere of inclusiveness and a culture of respect and empathy between all players”.
But there have been a few awkward situations in the recent past that don’t paint such a rosy picture. Kagiso Rabada said ahead of the England limited-overs series last year that it was a “team decision” not to take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but then added “Mark (Boucher) has stated that the team won’t be kneeling, and that is how it’s going to be”.
The team wore black armbands instead, and in subsequent series, some players – including Rassie van der Dussen – have opted to take the knee ahead of matches.
Then the Enoch Nkwe situation arose this week, with the Proteas assistant coach handing in his resignation. CSA have said that they haven’t accepted the resignation, and are speaking to Nkwe.
But one media report stated that the former Highveld Lions all-rounder was not happy in the Proteas camp, where he was apparently reduced to a “cone boy” instead of being allowed to make a meaningful contribution in the coaching set-up.
All in all, the Proteas don’t seem like a happy camp. To have someone like Boucher continuing to take charge and lead the change for a better team environment, following his admissions this week, makes little sense …