ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Drawing Parallels from South Africa

Does India Need a Caste-based Quota in Cricket?

In India’s 85-year-long Test history, only four of the 289 male Test cricketers have reportedly been Dalits. While concrete steps have been taken to address a similar under-representation of non-white players in South Africa, Dalit under-representation in Indian cricket has received scant attention. There is a need to understand this as a function of systemic barriers arising from corporate patronage post-independence and the urban stranglehold of the game, instead of attributing it to choice, inherent inability or upper caste “tastes.” The grass-roots development approach of Cricket South Africa can serve as an example to address this anomaly.

Over the past two seasons, talent drain in South African cricket has been dominating the headlines of cricket tabloids (Moonda 2017a). This drain occurred due to two coincidental, but unrelated phenomena. The first of these is that Cricket South Africa (CSA) began imposing “transformation targets,” that is, racial quotas, due to pressure from the South African Department of Sports and Recreation. While this was long believed to be the unsaid policy of the board (Moonda 2015),1 it has now been formalised across playing levels. These transformation targets mandate that on an average, the national playing 11 must include six players of colour, of which two must be black. The targets are slightly higher at the lower levels of the game. The second factor was announcement of Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit), which has left a limited window for Kolpak entries to the county game.2 This limited window due to Brexit tempted those who were uncertain of a stable future in international cricket to opt for the Kolpak route due to higher salaries in the county game in England (Holme 2017).

Apart from being a factor in the departure of promising players such as Kyle Abbott, Riley Russouw and David Wiese from the international game, the quota system also came under the scanner for preventing CSA from bidding to host any major international event. A report by an eminent persons group (EPG) commissioned by the sports ministry found that CSA, among other sporting bodies, had failed to meet its transformation targets. Consequently, the ministry barred all the errant sporting bodies, including CSA, from bidding to host any international events such as the World Cup and Champions Trophy (Moonda 2016). That the ban was effective in incentivising CSA to meet its targets is evident from the fact that CSA exceeded transformation targets in less than a year, resulting in the ban being lifted (Moonda 2017b). However, the transformation quota system comes under the scanner every time the national team underperforms. For instance, after the South African team lost to England by a large margin, former South African cricketer, Graeme Pollock argued that the quotas resulted in poor selections and were also weakening the domestic circuit (SA Cricket 2017).

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Updated On : 28th May, 2018

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