Diversity in cricket


I was glancing through the team rosters for the cricket World Cup currently underway and noticed that the South African team seems to be the most diverse, consisting of Africans, Asians, Anglos, and Afrikaaners. This is quite an irony since South Africa was for many years ostracized from the world of sports because of its strict segregationist apartheid policies that forbade anyone but whites from playing not only on national teams but at any level of real skill.

In fact, those old enough will recall the infamous D’Oliveira Affair that triggered the cricket boycott of South Africa. Basil D’Oliveira was a talented cricketer from South Africa but because of his mixed Indian and Portugese ancestry, he was officially classified as ‘colored’ and thus ineligible to play at the higher levels of the game in his country. So he went to England and qualified for that team. But when he was selected for the England team to tour South Africa in 1968, the South African government refused to accept the team and the tour was called off.

The story is long and complicated and involved the highest branches of the British and South African governments as they tried to use secret backchannel negotiations to navigate their way through the issue and somehow keep D’Oliveira off the team without giving the impression that politics played a role in his omission. But the whole thing blew up in their faces and escalated calls for the boycott of South African cricket that went into effect in 1971. South Africa were only allowed back into the fold in 1991 after apartheid was dismantled.

Of course, for a team to have diversity in terms of people of color, its population has to be diverse too and many of the cricket playing countries unfortunately lack that feature. In the 1950s, the West Indies team had players of white, black, and Asian ancestry but there don’t seem to be any white players anymore. The Asian countries may not have diversity in their populations in terms of color but do have it in terms of ethnicity, religion, and language but it is hard to discern how integrated their teams are in those categories just from the names and photos of the players.

The fact that South Africa has become a leader in cricket diversity is a welcome turn of events.

Next to South Africa, Zimbabwe seems to have the most diverse team, followed by England. It surprised me that both Australia and New Zealand don’t have any people of color in their national teams even though their populations are diverse. Australia has 12% people of Asian origin while in New Zealand about 25% are Maori, Asian, or Pacific Islanders.

Comments

  1. electrojosh says

    New Zealander weighing in here; in fairness, cricket is sort of thought of as a “white-guy” sport over here. That said this is still one of the “whitest” squads we have fielded in a while with only Ross Taylor (full name Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor) being of non-Eurpoean descent (he’s Samoan).

    When compared to Rugby – our national sport – it makes this difference even more extreme as our rugby teams are full of Pakeha (European descendants), Maori and Pacific Island players at all levels of the game. Not sure why cricket isn’t the same way.

  2. Mano Singham says

    electrojosh,

    I wold have thought that Asian immigrants and their descendants would at least have taken up the sport and become good at it, the way they did in England, South Africa, and West Indies. England has even had an Asian captain and South Africa’s current vice-captain is Asian.

    That’s interesting about Taylor. He looked vaguely like he might have Maori or Samoan ancestry but the name Ross Taylor made me decide against it.

  3. sundoga says

    Oddly, the same thing electrojosh says about NZ is also true in Oz. Aboriginal people seem more attracted (and perhaps more welcome?) in Australian Rules Football and Rugby, and we don’t have much Asian representation in any sport at the higher levels (though there seems to be plenty at local levels).

  4. Mano Singham says

    Maybe the difference between NZ and Australia on the one hand and England, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and West Indies on the other is that the Asian immigrants in the first set are much more recent, while those in the second set have been there for generations. As the generations go by, the immigrant mentality that sees sports as frivolous and parental pressure that their children need to study and work towards a ‘real’ job gets dissipated and young people start exploring their passions.

    This is just a guess, off the top of my head, as to the possible reason.

  5. electrojosh says

    I am not sure what the reason is to be honest. Auckland (where I live) certainly has a reasonable population of Asian immigrants and, during summer, they are well-represented in the club and local teams. But in the semi-professional leagues it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    I am more of a casual cricket follower so I can’t comment on the structures of NZ cricket but I am guessing it isn’t as well-run as NZ Rugby when it comes to identifying and nurturing future talent. I am wondering (purely speculation) if there is an “old boys” mentality in NZ cricket that makes it difficult for some players (especially those not from European stock) to break in.

    But it is a stark contrast to NZ Rugby which tries to attract any and all athletes regardless of racial or economic background.

  6. Francisco Bacopa says

    I find it interesting you used the term “Anglo”. In Texas the term “Anglo” was a racial designation given by the Mexican government to Texan immigrants who spoke English. “Anglo” simply means “English” or “English speaking” in Mexican Spanish.

    I am Anglo, that is my race. I use the name “Francisco” online to honor the nickname of my German/Mexican great-grandfather. But my grandmother, even though she was half-indigina was totally accepted as white folks where she lived. I identify as Anglo because I understand that to an extent I am the invader.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Francisco,

    I was a bit unsure if that was the correct term. I know that in South Africa the whites are distinguished between the Afrikaaners and those of English descent. I suppose I should have looked into the correct term but was a bit lazy and figured that ‘Anglo’ would fit the bill.

  8. says

    I don’t know how other Aussies here will feel about this, but I think Australia is incredibly racist. I’m born and bred in a small country town in Australia and I’ve lived in a few of the major cities and the shit that I hear on a daily basis is ridiculous. Multiple multiple times, in many varied places, I’ve been driving/walking with someone whom I’ve just met and they’ve casually dropped “boong” or “abo” (quite derogatory terms for Aboriginal Australians) without even blinking an eye, a lot of the people I know can’t go a sentence without saying “nigger” and the amount of times I’ve heard “cunt” is literally uncountable. I’ve even had high-level managers of Woolworths (one of the largest grocery chains in Australia) drop the c-bomb in front of groups of staff. I feel a good portion of the Australian people are incredibly racist, sexist but very mate-y type people, and it’s a combination that makes my skin crawl (we call them bogans).

    I think this contributes to the colour disparity in the sport. Cricket teams (especially local ones), for whatever reason, tend to be very much populated by bogan-type white guys. And I imagine their casual racism is a major factor in other ethnicities not becoming involved in cricket. The number of cricketers I know personally who absolutely despise Asians is so high, I’m not sure if I know one who doesn’t think like that. And culturally, Aboriginal Australians aren’t considered good at cricket (though that may have changed, I don’t watch much sports tbh). Rugby league and union tend to be the game that Aboriginal Australians excel at (I think it’s because football is considered ‘the’ game for Aboriginals within the wider culture, and so they get funneled into it). But yeah, Australia is racist. It’s got cool geography though, and the animals are fun (when they don’t kill you).

  9. Mano Singham says

    Drewzilla,

    That’s an interesting perspective from someone on the ground. It might explain why many of the complaints about Australian cricketers’ abusive sledging comes from players of color. I also had never heard the term ‘bogan’ before.

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