South Africa Women set to eschew racial equality gesture for Pakistan series

South Africa

The side will instead demonstrate their commitment to the eradication of gender-based violence

The South Africa women’s team is unlikely to take a knee or do anything else in terms of a gesture in support of the global movement against racial intolerance when they take on Pakistan for six limited-overs matches in Durban from Wednesday. They will, however, be expressing their protest against gender-based violence.

When asked if there have been discussions within the team about showing solidarity towards the fight against racial injustice in the upcoming home series, their first international assignment since March last year, senior batter and former captain Mignon du Preez instead focused on what the team is planning to do.

“Something that we’re definitely going to talk about in this series is gender-based violence. I think that’s also something that’s close to our hearts and is a big issue in South Africa,” du Preez told ESPNcricinfo. “We, actually, will have a ‘Black Day’, where we will be playing in black, standing together.

“For us that’s going to be the focus this time around. There’s been a lot of talk around other racial issues, and we know it’s a big issue around the globe. But, for us, this is one that really touches home, and we’re going to focus on that during this series.”

In the WBBL in October-November, where eight South Africans, including du Preez, made up the largest single-nation overseas contingent and were spread across seven of the eight squads, all teams performed the Indigenous Barefoot Circle ceremony to “reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation and taking a stand against racism”. Several teams even took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As far as international cricket goes, the South Africa men’s team had made a belated decision to adopt the “raised fist” gesture ahead of the start of their two-Test series against Sri Lanka on December 26, in protest against racial injustice. On December 21, the interim CSA board chairman Judge Zak Yacoob wrote to director of cricket Graeme Smith and men’s national head coach Mark Boucher noting individuals’ right to freedom of expression, but stating that he felt South Africans should show “the world that all of us are together in opposing racism at every turn”.

This came as a reaction to the team not taking a knee – or making any other gesture – on its return to international cricket, against England on November 27, the first time they played together since March. They did, however, wear black armbands to mourn the lives lost in the Covid-19 pandemic.

When South Africa staged its first live cricket match following the resumption of the sport after the pandemic-induced break – the 3TC on July 18 – the country’s elite male cricketers showed a united face against racism by taking a knee at Centurion’s SuperSport Park.

As for the campaign against gender-based violence, originally launched in February last year, Cricket South Africa had at the time said in a statement that the “focus point” of the drive would be South Africa’s ODI match at Kingsmead against Australia that was scheduled for March 22. However, the Covid-19 pandemic-enforced cancellation of the tour put paid to those plans.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha

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