Makhaya Ntini, the first black African to play test cricket for South Africa, stunned the nation with revelations of how lonely he felt as a member of the national team.
His comments on South African Broadcasting Company’s breakfast television show came as former captain Faf du Plessis admitted his mistakes in the past in dealing with racism.
“I was forever lonely because the first thing that comes mind is not to have someone knocking at your door and say ‘let’s go for dinner,’ Ntini explained.
“That’s loneliness on its own. Where you will watch friends calling each other and then having plans right in front of you and you will be skipped and they will go by themselves.
“They will have dinner, lunch, breakfast and at the same time when you walk into the breakfast room if you are the first one in the breakfast room you will see the next person that walks in he will never come and sit next to you.
“That’s loneliness but you are playing with him in the same team together, getting into the same bus, drive all the way to the stadium and then practice at the same time and bowl to them and wear the same clothes and then we sing the same national anthem. I had to find a way to overcome this.
“I found a way that became one of the best weapons of my life whereby I will go to the driver of the bus early morning and then I would give him my bag and say to him ‘I’ll meet you at the ground. I would run to the cricket ground.
“And then the same thing on my way back, I would give the bus driver my dirty clothes and I would say ‘I will see you at the hotel.’ I would run all the way back to the hotel.
“People never understood why I was doing that and I would never say to them this is why I am doing this – to avoid A,B,C, D.
“It became my best thing ever, right through my cricket career, not having to worry about someone else and telling them I will meet them at the ground because I’m running away from that loneliness from driving from the hotel 20 minutes to the ground and driving from the ground 20 minutes to the hotel.”
Nitni, admitted he would probably have not been so honest if it had not been for the current focus on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign.
He said it has provided him and other black players the opportunity to relate their unpleasant experiences to the younger generation rather “than going to the grave with it.”
“We are still young, we are still able to sit down with our own kids and reach out to them rather than waiting until you are 65 and that’s when you’re going to tell your grandchildren this is what we used to do,” he added.
Faf du Plessis offers support
Also on Friday morning du Plessis published a statement on his Instagram account admitting he had got things wrong in the past and giving more support to the BLM campaign.
He is the latest white team mate, along with the likes Dwaine Pretorius, Rassie van der Dussen and Anrich Nortje of to give their backing to Lungi Ngidi.
Ngidi was criticized by former Proteas Boeta Dippenaar, Pat Symcox and Brian McMillan for calling on his team mates to have a discussion about supporting the BLM movement when they next got together.
Du Plessis, who stepped down as captain earlier this year but still commands great respect within the team said that “all lives don’t matter until black lives matter.”
“We are surrounded by many injustices in our country that require urgent attention and action to fix them. If we wait only for the ones that attack us personally, we will always live for “my way vs your way” and that way leads us nowhere.”
The former captain said he remained silent with the intention of listening before delivering a response.
“I knew that words would be lacking and that my understanding is not close to where it needs to be,” he explained.
“I surrender my opinions and take the knee as an intercessor.
“I acknowledge that South Africa is still hugely divided by racism and it is my personal responsibility to do my best to emphasize, hear the stories, learn and then be part of the solution with my thoughts, words and actions.”
“I have gotten it wrong before. Good intentions were failed by a lack of perspective when I said on a platform that – I don’t see colour. In my ignorance I silenced the struggles of others by placing my own view on it.
“A race problem is a human race problem, if one part of the body hurts ,we all stop, we empathize, we get perspective, we learn and then we tend to the hurting part of the body.
“So I am saying that all lives don’t matter UNTIL black lives matter. I’m speaking up now, because if I wait to be perfect, I never will. I want to leave a legacy of empathy. The work needs to continue for the change to come and whether we agree or disagree, conversation is the vehicle for change.”
Du Plessis has been spending his time during the current Covid-19 lockdown sourcing and delivering food parcels to needy communities alongside Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s first black rugby captain.
Jacques Faul, Cricket SA’s acting Chief Executive acknowledged that the current climate provides a good opportunity to address the race problems in the game.
“It is important to stand by our convictions and to set the right example in everything we do. Cricket South Africa stands for equal opportunity and showcasing our country’s talent and its diversity,” he said.
“Mistakes will happen from time to time, but it is important for us to acknowledge them when they do and do our level best to redress matters in the most effective and honest manner possible.”