Dubai: Cricket South Africa on Tuesday ordered its players to take the knee before their T20 World Cup matches in support of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, a directive that led to Quinton de Kock withdrawing from the game against the West Indies and laying bare the growing internal tension.
Wicketkeeper-batter de Kock made himself unavailable after the CSA's diktat. The board said it will await a report from the management before deciding on the next move.
The South African cricketers have been seemingly split on the issue and before their T20 World Cup opener against Australia, players were seen standing, kneeling or raising a fist. Pacer Anrich Nortje and wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen stood with their hands behind their backs even as their teammates used different ways to express their support to the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. On Tuesday, both these players took the knee with the rest of the squad.
In the past few months, an inquiry has also been conducted on revelations made by black players about feeling isolated in the team. The side is currently being led Temba Bavuma, who is the Proteas first black captain.
The country's cricket board, meanwhile, asked the players to follow the diktat and present a united front, citing the country's apartheid past when Black players were not allowed to be part of national teams. "All players had been required, in line with a directive of the CSA Board on Monday evening, to "take the knee" in a united and consistent stance against racism. "This is also the global gesture against racism that has been adopted by sportspeople across sporting codes because they recognise the power of sport to bring people together."
The Board's view was that while diversity can and should find expression in many facets of daily lives, this did not apply when it came to taking a stand against racism.
The cricket fraternity too reacted to de Kock's sudden decision to pull out of the vital game for his team. Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson said there must be some "internal issues". Former West Indies captain Brian Lara said de Kock's absence will give advantage to West Indies.
The Indian cricket team had also taken the knee ahead of its tournament-opener against Pakistan on Sunday.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, however, offered support to de Kock. "Surely it's down to the individual to decide whether he or she wants to be involved in any movement … A cricket board can request players to do it but if that individual decides they don't want to, it should not stop them from playing the game of Cricket," he tweeted.
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