Cricket news - Black lives matter 100%, but it was team decision not to kneel: Kagiso Rabada

Representative Image: Cricketers 'taking the knee' in support of BLM.

Representative Image: Cricketers 'taking the knee' in support of BLM.

Not for the first time cricket was relegated to the sidelines of a star player's press conference. Rightly so: Kagiso Rabada has a duty to do more with his celebrity than use it to explain how to bowl fast, live large and leave a good-looking record.

In the time of a deadly pandemic that has killed 1.4-million and the uproar over the injustice of too many of the lives lived by black and brown people, that has never been more true. Rabada seemed to get that during his online presser: "It's important, if you have a platform, to spread the right message. There is huge responsibility in the things that you say and things you stand up for."

So he must have anticipated that Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter (BLM) would take precedence over mere batting, bowling, fielding and team tactics heading into South Africa's six-match white-ball series against England at Newlands and in Paarl, which starts on November 27.

"Guys are getting in the preparation that they need to," Rabada said of South Africa's build-up to their six-match white-ball series against England at Newlands and in Paarl, which starts on November 27. "The team is doing well at sticking to the strict rules that have been set in place. It's challenging and bizarre, but we're training well and communicating quite well as a group."

CSA said on Wednesday that a player in the 24-man squad had contracted the disease and that two others had been in contact with him. All three were asymptomatic and had been isolated. On Friday came the news that another player had tested positive. Consequently the practice matches scheduled for Saturday were cancelled. The England squad is staying at the same hotel but have not reported any cases.

"You've basically lost your freedom," Rabada said. "It's almost like luxury prisons that we're in." Happily, he didn't stop there. Instead he recognised his privilege.

"You have to remind yourself that we are fortunate. People have lost their jobs, people are struggling at the moment. So I just try remind myself that we must be grateful for the opportunity that has been given to us. First of all to earn some money, and second of all to do what we love.

"We don't get treated too badly. We're staying in great hotels, we get the best food. It's like a spoilt kid not getting what they want at the candy store. But it can be quite tough because you're surrounded by four walls most of the time, and that can be a factor mentally. But just reminding yourself of all the good things that are happening should get us through.

Once we start playing it will take away from the desolate times."

And once he steps onto the field Rabada will have the opportunity to show his support for BLM. Would he? By, for example, kneeling?

Rabada said he had made plain his views on the subject and that he would "see if I want to express them again". He conceded that "it's something that needs to be a constant reminder".

BLM was also a prominent topic at Mark Boucher's presser on Thursday. Asked if his team, who haven't taken the field since March - before George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police sparked worldwide protests - would take a knee in the matches against England, South Africa's coach said: "It's not something that we have to continue to show. It's more something that you have to live."

Boucher said the South Africans were considering wearing black armbands to recognise the impact of the coronavirus and the ongoing epidemic of gender-based violence in their country.

"We spoke about it as a group," Rabada said. "There are lots of things to look at these days. To me, black lives matter. Now we're looking at gender-based violence. Black lives will always matter. All lives will always matter. The situation now is that black lives matter."

It didn't help Rabada get his point across that his screen and audio then froze. When his situation thawed, he said: "Black lives matter 100%. It's something that I will always stand for. I speak for myself. It was a team decision not to kneel. This is to look at gender-based violence and to devote ourselves to another cause. However, BLM will always be relevant and something that I will always believe in. I speak for myself there. Mark has stated that the team will not be kneeling and that's how it's going to be."

Many will wonder why, if South Africa's players are willing to show their stance for all to see on some important issues, they appear less inclined to do so on racial justice. Do they consider it less pressing? Do some think it is but others think it isn't? Not for the first time, what happens on the sidelines will be more watched than what goes on in the middle on November 27.