Former Proteas all-rounder and current Warriors coach Robin Peterson says he felt like he was one of the first black players to be ‘planted’ in South African domestic cricket after unity, and he has recalled one of his first experiences when a racial slur was used against him by his favourite cricketer growing up.
Peterson made his first-class debut in January 1999 for Eastern Province B and went on to play 183 franchise games for the Warriors, Cape Cobras and Knights, as well as representing South Africa in 15 Tests, 79 ODIs and 21 T20 Internationals.
“I was probably one of the first players of colour to be planted in the system,” Peterson said in a webinar for the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on racism in cricket.
“I say ‘planted’ because it felt like that. When I played for Eastern Province, there were only two players of colour in the team: myself and Garnett Kruger. We were in the minority. Everyone else was white.
“And I was called the K-word in a provincial game years ago by someone who represented South Africa in a lot of Test matches.
“He was actually my hero growing up and I respected him, so it was a very sad thing. As one of the first generation of black players, I didn’t have the confidence to put up a fuss. Who do you go to? There were no protocols in place.
“But it made me angry and motivated, and I got a hundred in that game. He is no longer involved in cricket in South Africa, and I don’t feel it’s necessary to go back into that space. I just feel pity for him, and I want to confront the issues of today and not dwell in the past.”
In his new role as coach of the Warriors, Peterson called for greater consultation when it came to transformation policies, which he referred to as “outdated”.
This year was the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of Cricket South Africa’s transformation committee, and it had been four years since the existing quota of six players of colour, three of which must be black African, was implemented.
“As a coach now in the system, I find it very divisive and our policies on transformation are a bit outdated, calling each other ‘black Africans’ and ‘coloureds’. Do they align with high-performance sport?” Peterson said.
“I find it very difficult as coach to keep a united changeroom. All these silos just create more division. We are the people who implement the policy so we need to be consulted.
“We need a more collaborative and consultative approach because at the moment people are fighting each other in the changerooms. We want a united South Africa and the current policy does not reflect that. The coaches were never consulted and we have to implement it.
“We need 11 players of different skills, not just numbers like 6+3. The relevant people need to start being consulted.”