Sunday Times - February 13, 2013

Ex-players slam Proteas for lack of armbands




        The Proteas’ failure to wear black armbands to mourn the deaths of Neil Adcock and Peter van der Merwe has been slammed as political correctness by former players.

        Adcock and Van der Merwe, who died on January 6 and 23 respectively, played for SA in the apartheid era - when only whites represented the country and only played against other all-white teams.

        That, former SA batsmen Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock said yesterday, was why their deaths had not been commemorated on the field by the Proteas.

        Team management said decisions on black armbands were taken by the players in line with a commitment to respect sensitivities on both sides of SA cricket’s racially riven past.

        “It’s time to forgive and forget,” Richards, whose international career was limited to four tests because of apartheid, said.

        “We can’t keep up this pretence that there was no cricket before 1992 (when SA played their first test after 22 years of apartheid-induced isolation).”

        Richards said he was a victim of apartheid.

        “I was three years old when the National Party came in to power in 1948, but I’ve paid the penalty.

        “They keep talking about disadvantaged people – no-one’s more disadvantaged than Graeme (Pollock) and me. We couldn’t have test cricket and we’re not recognised now.

        “It was a sad part of our history, but let’s acknowledge that the guys who were good in that era were good, and when they die we respect them. It would be nice if the team did that.

        “Neil Adcock in his prime would have got into a World XI and you have to acknowledge that.

        “There is a certain respect that should be shown older guys. It just goes on and on and it’s time to bury it all. It smacks of pettiness.”

        Pollock, who played 23 tests before SA were kicked out of world cricket in 1970, was officially recognised as the country’s “Cricketer of the Century” in 2000. He concurred with Richards.

        “It (the lack of black armbands for Adcock and Van der Merwe) is in line with the thinking that anything that happened pre-1992 doesn’t get any credit or wasn’t part of the system,” Pollock said.

        “Everybody who has played for SA has made a contribution and those two gentlemen certainly made a contribution.

        “You’ve got to close the gap between the pre-92 era and the current scenario. In Australia, all ex-cricketers are rewarded and thanked for their contribution.”

        Former SA fast bowler Makhaya Ntini called for inclusiveness.

        “That’s our history - it doesn't matter who you are or when you played, if you played for SA you should be remembered in this way,” Ntini said.

        Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee said the players were mindful of not offending any part of cricket’s constituency with decisions that could be politically charged.

        “It’s purely a player policy, and the player policy is that (they will consider wearing black armbands) if someone who is close to the team and management from a family perspective or someone who has been involved in Cricket SA, especially post-unity, dies,” Moosajee said.

        “If you open it up further than that, you’ve got to remember the sensitivities on both sides. With sensitivities on both sides, who do you say yes to?”

        Adcock, who took 104 wickets at an average of 21.10 in his 26 tests, was among the most feared fast bowlers of the 1950s and early 60s.

        Van der Merwe captained SA to their first test series win in England, in 1965.