South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, one of the world’s leading cricketers, has made himself unavailable for his country against the West Indies in the T20 World Cup.
The racial politics of cricket was again in the limelight when South African star Quinton de Kock sensationally pulled out of the upcoming T20 World Cup match after refusing to take a knee.
The drama began hours before Tuesday’s game against the West Indies, when the South African board asked its players to ‘take a coherent and united stand against racism’ and took a knee before every match.
But de Kock – his side’s opener, wicketkeeper and best batsman – decided during a coach visit to the Dubai International Cricket Stadium that he would not attend, effectively ruling himself out of the match and possibly the tournament. There was also speculation on Tuesday night that at the age of 28, he had represented his country for the last time.
At the toss, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma said that de Kock withdrew due to ‘personal reasons’. But, after diverting attention from his side to side West Indies, Bavuma said he was ‘shocked and shocked’ by this development.
He said it was ‘one of my toughest days to deal with as captain’ but added: ‘Quinton is an adult. You have to respect his decision, whether you agree with it or not. I cannot force others to see things, nor can they force me.’
Bavuma said the South African board’s decision to implement its order on the morning of the crucial World Cup match was “not ideal”. And while he described de Kock as ‘still one of the boys’, he admitted that the dressing room had not yet properly digested the implications of his stance. “We have to find a way forward,” he said.
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard, de Kock’s IPL teammate at Mumbai Indians, appeared unaware of the events of the day, but said taking a knee was something we feel strongly about as a team and people, And say: ‘We will continue to do. Everyone has their own opinion on this. Education is the key.’
This isn’t the first time de Kock has gone against the grain.
In June, before a Test against the West Indies in St Lucia, he was the only South African to protest the gesture, later saying: ‘I will keep my reasons to myself.’ Cricket South Africa responded by making another statement yesterday, insisting that ‘it was imperative for the team to take a stand against racism, especially given South Africa’s history’.
De Kock is seen here at left, choosing not to kneel ahead of a T20 match against Sri Lanka last September
Cricket South Africa ordered its players to take a knee against Australia last week (above) following their dissenting support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Speaking at the toss, captain Temba Bavuma (right) revealed that de Kock (left) withdrew from the match against West Indies due to ‘personal reasons’.
Former Zimbabwe pacer Pommi Mbangwa could not hide his disappointment in the commentary box. ‘Sorry to be political,’ he said, ‘but I can’t leave my skin.’
Fellow commentator Darren Sammy, the former West Indies captain, was also disappointed, saying: ‘There are other issues affecting the world but I don’t understand why it is so difficult.’
The controversy did not come long after uncomfortable stories were told before South Africa’s Committee on Social Justice and Nation-building.
De Kock was replaced by Heinrich Klaasen – who took a knee – as Proteas wicketkeeper.
Among them, current head coach and former wicketkeeper Mark Boucher admitted that he took part in a team song during his playing days in which spin bowler Paul Adams was called ‘brown s***’. Boucher said he deeply regretted his behaviour.
It is hard to imagine that de Kock will play any further role in his tournament unless he changes his stance. Despite his absence, South Africa clinched an eight-wicket win against the West Indies, which have now suffered two out of two defeats after England were bundled out for 55 on Saturday.
Set up a modest 144, South Africa – who had lost to Australia three days earlier – got a boost from Aiden Markram’s unbeaten 51 off 26.
De Kock has chosen to stand tall while his teammates took their knees in previous matches
Pammi Mbangwa (left) and Darren Sammy (right) speak out against de Kock’s antics
Both West Indies and Proteas players kneel before their group match in Dubai