De Kock withdraws from South Africa team after refusing to take knee

Dubai (AFP) – Quinton de Kock withdrew from South Africa's Twenty20 World Cup match against the West Indies after refusing to take the knee on Tuesday, a decision which highlighted once again the sport's struggles to emerge from its troubled past.

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Skipper Temba Bavuma said the wicketkeeper-batsman, a former national captain, had made himself unavailable "for personal reasons" in their crucial Super 12 game in Dubai.

The decision raised eyebrows as De Kock, 28, had previously refused to take part in the anti-racism gesture that has become a regular feature in most sporting events.

"Cricket South Africa (CSA) has noted the personal decision by South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock not to take the knee ahead of Tuesday's game against the West Indies," said a CSA statment.

"The Board will await a further report from team management before deciding on the next steps. All players are expected to follow this directive (to take the knee) for the remaining games of the World Cup."

After South Africa had won the match by eight wickets, Bavuma admitted that there will be question marks over De Kock's future in the team.

"Quinton is an adult. He's a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision. We respect his convictions," said Bavuma.

"I don't know how far it's going to develop. It wouldn't be my decision whether to replace Quinton or to get a substitute. That would be probably the coach and the selectors.

"But as far as we stand, Quinton is still one of the players. He's still one of the boys, so whatever support that he needs, whatever shoulder that he requires from his teammates, we'll be there for him."

Earlier, the CSA said "concerns were raised that the different postures taken by team members in support of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) initiative created an unintended perception of disparity or lack of support for the initiative".

They acted after pictures emerged from the team's first game against Australia at the weekend where some players knelt and some stood.

De Kock refused to take a knee in South Africa's Test series in the West Indies earlier this year.

'My own opinion'

"My reason? I'll keep it to myself. It's my own, personal opinion," he said at the time.

"It's everyone's decision. No-one's forced to do anything, not in life. That's the way I see things."

The South Africans playing in Tuesday's game took the knee before the start of the game.

"A commitment to overcoming racism is the glue that should unite, bind and strengthen us," CSA board chairperson Lawson Naidoo said.

"Race should not be manipulated to amplify our weaknesses. Diversity can and should find expression in many facets of our daily lives, but not when it comes to taking a stand against racism."

De Kock is one of his country's star players and a regular choice across all three formats of the game

He has made over 10,000 international runs and was briefly captain of the Test side before stepping down earlier this year.

Standing not kneeling: South Africa's Wiaan Mulder, Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar raise their fists before the first Test against the West Indies in St Lucia in June
Standing not kneeling: South Africa's Wiaan Mulder, Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar raise their fists before the first Test against the West Indies in St Lucia in June Randy Brooks AFP/File

De Kock found support from former England captain Michael Vaughan.

"Surely it's down to the individual to decide whether he or she wants to be involved in any movement," Vaughan tweeted.

"A Cricket board should request players to do it but if that individual decides they don't want too it should not stop them playing the game of cricket."

When South Africa played the West Indies in St Lucia in June, only six of the 11 players in the starting line-up took a knee.

'No division'

Others, including captain Dean Elgar, stood with right fists raised. De Kock stood with his hands behind his back.

However, black fast bowler Lungi Ngidi, who played in that game, insisted the team remained united.

"It's not fair for me to speak for other people, everyone's entitled to their own choices in life. I've been very clear on my stance," he said.

"In terms of the team, there is no division at all. We play for South Africa which is all we are trying to do as players."

In August this year, South Africa assistant coach Enoch Nkwe resigned after apparent disagreements with under-pressure head coach Mark Boucher.

Nkwe's resignation came against a backdrop of widespread criticism of Boucher following revelations made at hearings into racism in South African cricket.

The criticism intensified when black former players alleged they were not made to feel welcome in the national team environment during the period in which Boucher was a prominent member of the team.

Former spin bowler Paul Adams said he was racially abused during fines meetings presided over by Boucher.

Boucher later apologised for "any offensive conduct, real or perceived" brought to light during hearings.