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T20 World Cup: Quinton de Kock misses match against West Indies after refusing to take the knee

Quinton de Kock refused to play against West Indies because he didn't want to take the knee

South African cricketer Quinton de Kock has attracted criticism from every quarter for refusing to take the knee [Source: ICC]

South African cricketer Quinton de Kock has attracted criticism from every quarter for refusing to take the knee [Source: ICC]


Anjishnu Roy

Published: 26 Oct 2021 1:17 PM GMT

Shock and surprise in equal proportion gripped the world of cricket following the news that recently emerged out of the South African team camp. Prior to their second game of the T20 World Cup against West Indies, there were speculations that Quinton de Kock had made himself unavailable for the game because of 'personal reasons.'

Earlier in the day, Cricket South Africa (CSA) after a meeting on Monday evening, had communicated to the entire squad that they would go forward with 'taking the knee' gesture in the remaining World Cup matches in order to show their united stance against racism. "Several other teams at the World Cup have adopted a consistent stance against the issue, and the Board felt it is time for all SA players to do the same," the CSA statement read.

Further, the chairperson of the Cricket South Africa board Lawson Naidoo said that team should be committed as a group to overcoming racism. "Diversity can and should find expression in many facets of our daily lives, but not when it comes to taking a stand against racism," Naidoo had said.

Quinton de Kock, who has previously expressed his hesitation at taking the knee in the past, made it clear that he would not partake in that gesture in the match against West Indies. "It's everyone's decision. No one is forced to do anything. Not in life. That's the way I see things. That's just about it," de Kock had said in June when asked about his stance on taking the knee in support of the BLM movement.

An official statement from CSA made public soon after the game had begun read, "Cricket South Africa (CSA) has noted the personal decision by South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock not to 'take the knee' ahead of Tuesday's game against the West Indies."

De Kock's actions attracted criticism from all quarters, including commentators who had no hesitation to speak about it as it is. Former cricketers Pommie Mbangwa and Darren Sammy slammed of de Kock for pulling out of the game because of this reason.

"Excuse me for being political, but I cannot shed my skin. I hope, I hope that the discussion at the very least is about how to be united about something that everybody agrees on... also in the hope that there is agreement," said Mbangwa.

Refusing to represent your country in a crucial World Cup fixture because it decides to take a stand against racism seems bad enough on the surface, but it becomes almost infinitely worse when you take into account South Africa's disjointed past and its struggles with Apartheid. In fact, between 1970 and 1990, South Africa were banned from international cricket and from several other sporting competitions because of their extended racist practices.

Makhaya Ntini was the first black cricketer to play for South Africa [Source: Getty]

In its initial years even after being reinstated back to the global stage, the South African cricket team was mostly made up of white cricketers. Legendary bowler Makhaya Ntini, who made his debut for the national team in 1998, was the first black South African Test cricketer. Speaking to SABC2's Morning Live in 2020 during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Ntini detailed the racism he had to experience in his years as a professional cricketer with the national team, claiming that he used to be lonely.

In order to protect the interests of native South Africans as well as the black populace in the country's sporting realm, South African cricket drafted a strict quota system and reservation policy. The rule dictates that at least six players in a side should be native South Africans including two black cricketers. The policy continues to bear discontent among the white cricket community in South Africa, many of who (eg. Kevin Pietersen and Devon Conway) depart for greener pastures to receive more opportunities contributing to the talent drain in the nation.

The picture from the dugot from the game against Australia screams of a disjointed dressing room [Source: ICC]

This paints a disjointed picture of the Proteas dressing room which has echoes of separatism and racism to this day. In the opening game against Australia, before the CSA directive of taking the knee was made compulsory for every cricketer, a group of players in the South Africa team kneeled down and raised their fists, while another group stood up while raising their firsts. Anrich Nortje and Heinrich Klaassen, white players, just stood with their hands folded behind.

If that isn't South African cricket in a nutshell since the last few years, then we don't know what is. When the people who have been on the kinder side of history are so firm in their determination to not stand beside those who have been persecuted, there's little hope for unity and togetherness. Imagine how it must be for Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma who share a dressing room with Quinton de Kock knowing that the senior player is more comfortable with skipping a World Cup match for his country than showing a gesture of good faith for their race.

For those confused and muddled up by what they think is De Kock's right to not take any political stance it must be pointed out that a small gesture against racism is the bare minimum that is expected of any decent human being. There is nothing political about standing up for the rights of those that have been oppressed because of their religion, race, skin colour, caste, creed, and sex.

Like Darren Sammy said in the comms box, "As my mother always said, you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything.

"Sometimes I don't understand: why is it so difficult to support this movement, if you understand what it stands for."

That's all there is to it. A gesture of good faith and support for your own teammates of colour. Not too much to ask for, is it, Quinton?

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