When Norman Arendse stole what should have been solely Shaun Pollocks moment, by publicly wishing his daughter a happy birthday when giving Pollock is farewell speech after his final match for South Africa, maybe a thoughtful gesture in his mind but a highly inappropriate one, the entire country collectively cringed. A week later Arendse was in in the headlines, both front and back pages, for his very public battle with Mickey Arthur over selection and transformation. Another inappropriate act by a man who’s position suggests he should know better. When he called a general council meeting and had Aurthur removed from the selection panel, he failed to give all the facts to those in attendance, the fact that Arthur could not be removed by them or him, and further embarressed the the board by telling the media the decision was unanimous, something it was not. Yet another inappropriate act. Strike three. In baseball terms he would be out.
While everyone with any sense knows that transformation is important in a South African context, having a more representative team is something that should be striven for, but it should not be forced. Forcing the issue does no good to anyone and the biggest loser would be the players brought into a battle they didn’t ask for. Justin Ontong, a very talented cricketer, saw his international career almost destroyed when he became the pawn in a similar power struggle a few years ago. He is only now forcing his way back into contention. Arendse has threatened to set back the career of more black players, most notably Monde Zondeki, by allowing his name to be used in this verbal battle. Zondeki was the second highest wicket taker in this seasons Supersport Series, and would have been justified a place in the South African squad on merit. Yet all that Arendse has accomplished is to push Zondeki into the “quota” bracket, and in doing so let everyone know that he would have been in the team because of his skin color and not his obvious ability. Zondeki does not need that. He needs to know he was chosen by the selectors because they had full trust in his ability and that he had the full confidence of the players he runs onto the pitch with. He must not be a token. Herchelle Gibbs, who has been dropped for the forthcoming series, has said that while he is hurt and not being part of the team he does not want to be picked because of his skin color. The players feel that way and that is something that Arendse does not grasp.
While there is merit in a transformation policy, forcing it will only hinder the development of black players and lessen the countries confidence in the sport. Arendse is doing more to damage the game then to promote it, particularly with black players. Ntini, Amla, Prince, Duminy and Langeveld have all been picked on merit and not as part of a forced “quota” system. That is how it should be. Arendse has to see that or he must go.