It is very unfortunate that the enlivening ICC Men’s T20 World Cup-2021 should get affected by a largely unnecessary controversy. Did any team ever in international tournaments object to singing their national anthem or any team object to their rivals singing their national anthems? Definitely not, it’s being a celebrated customs in almost all such tournaments across various fields of sports. Therefore, the ‘personal choice’ syndrome never comes up here. Then, why this syndrome has to come up in ‘taking the knee’ for a most noble cause? In our school days our teachers ordered us to kneel down on innumerable occasions, obviously to correct our faults, which is why we are better human beings today. Did we even think of exercising our democratic choice on those occasions? The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, started in 2013 ‘as a decentralized political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people’ the world over is fully justified. The movement had its ups and downs, but after the brutal police killing of a black protester George Floyd in the US in 2020 it has gained international prominence, and Michael Holding, ex-cricketer of the West Indies, took painstaking efforts to bring it in the cricket arena-unfortunately this gentleman’s game had seen the ugly expressions of racism on quite a few occasions in international cricket, not only involving the blacks, but also the so-called ‘colored’ players.
We have seen in most of the matches played so far in this World Cup teams taking the knee before the start to express their solidarity against the evil of racism. The ICC had not issued any official directive for this gesture, but made it voluntary for the teams. Cricket South Africa (CSA), the country that was boycotted by the international community for years for their notorious policy of the Apartheid, has been exemplary in making the gesture compulsory for their team before the start. So, what’s wrong in following that noble gesture and how does the question of personal choice come in such internationally relevant issues? Team India had also taken the gesture as per instructions from their cricket board, and England also expressed the gesture in their match against the West Indies like most other teams.
The noble gesture was also made during South Africa’s starter match against Australia; of course, not involving all the players. But suddenly and most significantly as the encounter was against the West Indies, South Africa’s key opener and wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock made an issue out it, calling his refusal to bend his knee due to personal reasons. Not only did he refuse to make the gesture, but also withdrew from the match in the last minutes which was confirmed by the CSA. This is extremely disturbing, because de Kock has also been a key cricketer in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) for years, playing for the Mumbai Indians (the franchise may release him soon due to the impact) that included a lot of black and ‘colored’ players; in fact, India is a country of colored people only. So then, why de Kock never objected to playing continuously with them, as an integral team member? If his ‘personal choice’ is not to support the BLM movement then it stinks of racism, or else de Kock is perhaps a staunch supporter of the ‘white supremacy’ theory so bullishly propounded by the ex-President of USA, Donald Trump. We condemn his action in the World Cup which may ultimately adversely impact his entire cricket career, and South Africa, obviously, would never want to lose such a key player. The CSA has to give the final verdict on the future of Quinton de Kock even as some media reports suggest the player has withdrawn from the entire tournament while others fear that this must the last time we had seen de Kock on the field.
We hope for an amicable solution for all the stakeholders concerned holding the noble cause high, respecting the ideals and the movement of Nelson Mandela and suitable punishment for anyone guilty of being a racist. The ICC, in fact, should take this opportunity to make ‘taking the knee’ gesture mandatory for all participating teams. The Council righteously bans any kind of political or religious gestures, but in upholding this noble cause there cannot be any hesitation or the principles of democratic choices.
In the match against the struggling West Indies where the controversy had erupted South Africa won easily, without de Kock. In other matches Afghanistan in Group-2 registered a huge victory over the topper of the qualifying Group-B Scotland, even bigger than that of Pakistan’s over India. Pakistan continue their exciting run of victories by defeating New Zealand, although they had to struggle to chase a low target of 135 runs. England in Group-1 also have kept their ominous bulldozing act in continuation by routing Bangladesh. Both Pakistan and England are apparently enjoying their toss-luck so far as per the behaviour of the slow pitches and the dew factor later for the bowling side. After creating history by making it to the Super-12 stage for the first time, defeating a well-placed Ireland, Namibia won their first match of the World Cup against Scotland with relative comfort in Group-2.