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The First South Africa Cricket Test Match after 1992 ...That Sadly Too Few Saw

Tim Holt
769   //    15 Jul 2011, 10:18 IST

‘Blacks were intellectually inferior and had no finesse for the game…………’ (John Vorster, South African Prime minister 1971)An abhorrent and racist belief that underpinned the selection of South African Cricket Teams in the Apartheid era

This ethos lead to isolation from 1970 onwards with the iconic Don Bradman showing the lead. When in his role as the Chief of the Australian Cricket Association in 1971 he exclaimed this:

“We will not play them until they choose a team on a non-racist basis.”

A true blow to the South Africa populous to be deprived of indulging in their true love of sport. Then worse was the fact that at the time of the ban their Team had the potential to dominate the game. Such was its regal nature in all regards.

The Racist evils continued unabated in South Africa and honestly were seen as acceptable in many parts of the Globe

Cricket was seen as a game that embraced all, but too had a racist undertone that still simmered in many narrow minds. This became confronting with the rise of for want of a better term ‘Black Power’ in the guise of the great West Indies in the mid 1970′s. A Team that would dominate the game for near on 20 years and be widely regarded as arguably the best Team ever…

Time passed, but memories and education remained as the South African Team were readmitted into the game in 1992. Still as the remnants of Apartheid were left in rubble, but indelibly still remained.

Lovely irony enters the fray and the South African’s first Test back in the big time is against the West Indies in Bridgetown, Barbados. A Barbados at the time that still had the tourist laden beaches, but with the locals struggling with economic times and feeling anger in their free time over the weakness of the Barbados side. Mindsets ignited more by their boy in Anderson Cummins being overlooked in the final Test 11

So you’d expect with the ill feeling felt against anything South African because of the racist past coupled with their own tense realities would mean a packed stadium. To make these ‘white boys’ feel like like they were in a Colosseum full of spectators with their thumbs pointed down wanting to see them fed to their 11 lions

Instead a boycott ensued over Cummins and the stands were left empty robbing the iconic clash of the theatre it so deserved

The invisible TV made up for the tension with the build up and the talk of the players. The handshake at the toss was iconic and then the game was to begin. Thoughts in our minds of how men who adhered to Rastafarian notions and were brought up witnessing their heroes in striving for equality would feel and act playing against men who were the ones taught that the black man was well below them and always should be. Then how would the South African players conduct themselves in the wake of this ‘education’

Skill was the games highlight, rather than the tension due to the regrettable past that many had hoped for. A wondrous debut century by South Africa’s Andrew Hudson was matched by a crucial 2nd innings contribution by Jimmy Adams for the hosts.

As the 4th day slipped off into our memories the South African’s were on the verge of victory. Only 78 to get on the last day with 8 wickets in hand. So it was seen as a near certainty.

Two sincere Caribbean heroes in Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh flipped this certainty on it’s head. A brutal combined spell that saw the last South African wickets fall for 22 runs saw the West Indies miraculously triumph

Or Black rule over White as it was seen in many quarters….That might have been the celebration in the past, but in truth the result was irrelevant.

It was compellingly more about a new dawn….

Where a group of players from a Nation, so renowned for its staunch adherence to racist principles had broken down that shameful past to such an extent. That they could play against a group of Black players and shake hands in a celebration of equality

Pity so few witnessed it, but future generations are forever thankful.

Tim Holt
Cricket through the eyes of an Irishman. Do check out more on my blog <a href="">atouchofirishintheglobalvillage</a>
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