Temba Bavuma expresses his delight at Newlands this week on scoring a Test century. He became the first black cricketer playing for the national side to do so. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Temba Bavuma expresses his delight at Newlands last week. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

MAKHAYA Ntini isn’t the most fervent follower of broadcast etiquette since he joined the commentary box corps a couple of seasons ago and he was at his rampaging, engaging best last week as Temba Bavuma neared his spine-tingling century at Newlands last week.

He whooped in the back of the commentary box, and then cheered once he’d been ushered outside.

It was unconstrained joy that left those within grabbing distance gasping from bear-hugs.

Later, someone had the temerity to suggest that Bavuma had enjoyed the best of a rare situation with an exhausted bowling attack toiling towards its 200th over on a pitch flatter than he is ever likely to encounter again. And that maybe his lack of footwork and quirky style would see him struggle in more challenging Test conditions when the ball is swinging.

This may or may not be true, but what spectacularly crass timing. Even those doubters who believed (incorrectly) that Bavuma had received preferential treatment on the way up the selection ladder managed to celebrate the moment, although not quite in Ntini style.

All that mattered in the aftermath of a famous and vastly significant century was that it was. Those in attendance at Newlands clearly understood this, which is why they afforded Bavuma a standing ovation, both English and South African. It was time to celebrate, not question.

Cricket SA’s aggressive transformation policy at domestic level is causing some anxiety and heartache. Players in their mid-to late 20s who have worked hard to be recognised at franchise level now find themselves back in the amateur provincial ranks as the first-class teams battle to pick a balanced XI to meet the criteria — six nonwhite players including three black African.

Don’t make the mistake of believing it is only white players who are confused or disillusioned. Bowlers of proven quality are being omitted for batsmen who are not and vice versa. The level of mistrust and paranoia in domestic teams is threatening to return to that which existed when quotas were first introduced without anybody receiving counselling on how best to manage the changes, least of all the players.

Cricket SA CEO Haroon Lorgat is unapologetic and is surely correct in asserting that the game has to change its face. "The provinces and franchises have had over 20 years to produce more black players and they haven’t. Now we have to make it happen."

It is regrettable that schoolboys are growing up with quotas from their teen years, but social engineering is seen as unavoidable until there are enough players such as Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada to inspire a generation.

Even when they are inspired, many will still require assistance to close the economic gap between themselves and "traditional" first-class cricketers.

If perspectives are challenged by the issue of transformation, this may be even more so in the near future when a scandal as big as any to have hit the game in SA lands among us.

A legal case is being prepared against a significant number of domestic players for corruption during the recent Ram Slam Twenty20 tournament. The ringleader, a former national player, is facing almost certain prison time. Others may be charged with the lesser crime of "failure to report" suspicious or illegal activity.

No doubt it will reopen the wounds of 2000 when Hansie Cronjé was caught making deals with illegal bookmakers and, no doubt, some people will once again contemplate giving up on the game. If, however, Cricket SA delivers the largest group conviction for spot-fixing in the world, supporters might consider throwing their support even more firmly behind the sport.

Corruption exists in every country that plays the game to a standard good enough to support a structured domestic competition, yet none of them have shown the will or aptitude to catch the bad guys. If SA makes an example of a few of them, it could be on its way to having the cleanest game of all.