- SA’s brightest current players have it in their hands to determine the cultural road ahead, says “Big Vince”.
- He believes that players unwilling to accept change after counselling cannot be part of the future Proteas journey.
- The culture, says Van der Bijl, must include a hard competitive edge but also “necessary soft skills”.
South African pace bowling legend and former ICC manager of umpires and referees Vince van der Bijl has branded Cricket South Africa’s high-performance squad culture camp an “exciting opportunity” for the country’s premier players to define the future environment they wish to operate in.
He was responding in a Facebook post at the weekend to the revelation that 32 players, either established Proteas or ones pushing hard for national berths, have been summoned to the exercise at Skukuza from Tuesday.
It follows the weeks of upheaval over allegations of racism in SA cricket, which began with the widespread support from local personalities for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Van der Bijl, an iconic figure in Natal, Transvaal and Middlesex teams of the 1970s and 80s, was among the first prominent white cricket figures to publicly get behind emerging strike bowler Lungi Ngidi’s clear-cut backing of Black Lives Matter.
He said it was “wonderful that the oldies and ex-players are not there” for the camp.
He stressed: “Their, and our, time for mapping the culture of the team is gone – we have all failed to do that, irrespective of our generation, background, religion or colour.
“Their/our openness – including anger, denial – has opened the way for this camp to be real … make it so, by producing a blueprint for us all.
“This culture camp … is the perfect place for you, ‘young ones’, to define the culture and environment that you passionately want to immerse yourselves in, in your SA cricket career.
“You must own it and live by it. Players who do not conform in the future and are not willing to change after counselling, cannot be part of the team.
“The culture must have the hard edge of performance, discipline, team first, high work ethic and the necessary soft skills to ensure sustainability for the next generation: inclusion, sharing, understanding, listening, celebrating, fairness, transparency and open communication.
“Wow, (it is) not easy. How many of us have ever worked in such an environment?
“The culture and purpose is the road map. When players and those in the wider team stray, they must be held to account and be helped back to the centre; not just discarded, unless they are not willing. That is the difficult part.
“That is the hard edge that is required. The warm, fuzzy stuff is easy, but essential.”
Van der Bijl added: “We all look forward to the outcome. We hope that every one of you will say what you want to express to help form and agree the right culture and environment.
“Then the hard work begins, of living it openly, freely and with passion, with the only ego being that which is required for each of you to perform for the team and your country.”