The South Africa players were "surprised and taken aback" by Quinton de Kock's refusal to take a knee and then withdraw from the fixture against West Indies, but don't know why exactly de Kock is against the gesture in support of antiracism. De Kock is expected to release a statement explaining his stance in the coming days. And for now, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma wants the team to respect de Kock's decision.
"As a team, we are surprised and taken aback by the news. Quinton is a big player for the team, not just with the bat, but from a senior point of view, so not having this at my disposal, as a captain, is obviously something I wasn't looking forward to," Bavuma said after South Africa's win over West Indies. "In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He is a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision, we respect his convictions, and I know he will be standing behind the decision he has taken."
Bavuma and his team received a directive from the CSA board at 9am Dubai time on Tuesday, five hours before they were due to take on West Indies, asking the players to collectively take a knee before every game. "Before getting on the bus to travel to Dubai, that message was passed on to the players," Bavuma revealed.
During the "hour and a half to two hours' trip from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Quinton made his decision," Bavuma said, adding that the team didn't have time to find out why de Kock had withdrawn.
"I found out as the captain when I got to the changing room. There wasn't a great deal of time for us to thoroughly discuss this matter. Unfortunately, it was a matter of us digesting what we've been told and finding a way to move forward."
He described the match itself as "probably one of the toughest days I've had to deal with as a captain, as a leader of the team, for obvious reasons with the off-field matters", but was relieved that the team got their T20 World Cup campaign back on track with an eight-wicket win. "Unfortunately, we had to get the job done. There was still a game of cricket for our country. It was important that as much as everything was happening we found a way to get into the right mental space and take it home for our country."
Bavuma said players who are interested to know more about the decision from de Kock, might find out before South Africa's next game, on Saturday against Sri Lanka. "We have a few days before the next game and I think those days will be tough for the group. Guys who want to know in terms of his decision, will use that time to find out a bit better," Bavuma said. "Quinton is an adult. He made his decision. You have to respect it, whether you agree with it or not.
"As much as you have the choice to decide what you want to do, you can't escape the consequences of the choices and decisions we make. If there are people out there who think certain people need more clarity, then the fans, the media, it's best that you ask those guys directly. It becomes blurry when you are asking guys about other guys. If you are really wanting to get the clarity that you seem to want, you should probably ask those individuals themselves."
Asked if the players were disappointed that one of the group could not make a "basic" gesture as taking a knee, Bavuma said the matter was more complex and hinted at differences within the team. "I don't think it as simple as just taking a knee," he said. "We have to appreciate that we live in a country like South Africa that has its own past, that is diverse in its views, diverse in the way people see things, and their backgrounds and decisions that we take, things that we support, are based on our own convictions.
"As much as we are a team, we wear the same shirt, we play for the same badge, outside of that we still live our own lives and those lives are different by the very nature that we live in South Africa. Over the last while, I have learnt to appreciate that a lot more, try to widen your own perspective as an individual and not expect people to see things the way you see things. My beliefs, the way that I see things, is shaped by my own background, and so is the other person's. If there is a disagreement in terms of beliefs, in terms of views, that's why we have those hard conversations. Through those conversations we will be able to get the comfort to accept the other person's decision. I can't force anyone to see things the way I do, neither can they force me to."
But CSA has made it mandatory for the team to continue taking a knee ahead of each of the T20 World Cup games and reiterated that in their statement acknowledging de Kock's refusal. That has made his participation in the rest of the tournament uncertain, although Bavuma could not confirm whether a replacement would be required.
"I don't know how far it is going to develop," he said. "The decision he has taken is only today so I can only speak about what has happened today. It wouldn't be my decision whether to replace Quinton or get a substitute. That will most probably be the coach and the selectors.
"Quinton is still one of the players, one of the boys, whatever support he needs, whatever shoulder he requires from his team-mates, will be there for him. If there is a need for further conversations to be had, those will definitely happen."
Bavuma has asked his players to remain focused on the tournament and their cricket, with three more crucial pool matches to go. "We have to keep focusing as much as we can on the team, particularly matters on the field. We will lose a lot of energy as players if we start giving 100% to everything being discussed outside of the team," he said. "At the end of the day, you are going to judge us on how well we bowled a ball or how we hit a ball. I don't think you will be looking at the fact that we were martyrs or we stood for whatever cause. Me, being the leader of the side at the moment, is to make sure our eye is on the ball."
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, a CSA spokesperson explained that the board had not issued the directive before the tournament because it had been decided after seeing the team in their opener against Australia. "Having noted that a very small number of players had not taken the knee during South Africa's opening match against the Australians, the board felt that it was important to take this position because the optics and the aesthetics of a team split between its players who take the knee and those who don't were just not a good showing for unity in the team," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Kieron Pollard - de Kock's team-mate at Mumbai Indians - was unaware as to why the South African had missed the match and called for education. "It's something that we feel strongly about as a team and as a people, as well, and we will continue to do it," Pollard said of the West Indians' continued anti-racism stance. "Each and everyone has their own opinions on it, but as I've always said, once you're educated and you understand, we will understand you doing it, but I think education sort of is the key, and we don't want anyone doing it for us in solitude or to feel sorry for us."