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West Indies tour of South Africa 1982/83 - The Rebel Tour

You go down cricket’s memory lane and you would come across good and bad

moments. But perhaps the saddest moments of all would be the South African rebel
tours (1982-1990). These were a series of seven tours to South Africa also billed as
the ‘rebel tours’ because the South African team had been banned from international
cricket due to the apartheid regime. These tours were not recognised as
official cricket tours by the International cricket conference (ICC) and faced
strong disapproval from international organisations like the United Nations. It
was in 1982-83 that it was finalised that a West Indian ‘rebel squad’ would be touring
South Africa. At that time West Indian cricket was its prime. Such was the case in the
carribean that consistent performances in the domestic circuit were also not enough
for a West Indian cricketer to book his place in the national squad . It was in such
a situation that the talented understudies of caribbean cricket like Lawrence Rowe,
Collis King and Sylvester Clarke were motivated by money and a desire to do
something bigger than cricket decided  to undertake this rebel tour . The amount of
money that the West Indian players received for the tour was reported to be
between US$100,000 and US$120,000 . This amount was probably the biggest
driving factor for the West Indians to undertake the tour because at that time
first-class cricketers in the caribbean were poorly paid and rarely rewarded for
their performances with a national call – up. The West Indian cricketers were billed
as missionaries when they first landed on South African soil. South Africans
expected that seeing the mighty West Indians , most of whom were blacks, play
cricket would help the black people’s cause in South Africa and would thus
eliminate Apartheid but  that of course didn’t happen . The West Indian’s won the test
series 2-1 and also the one day series 4-2 but as the tour progressed it started facing
widespread criticism from the South African media.

 The West Indian’s had hoped that their tour would bring about a change in the South
African society but the non-whites in South Africa who had earlier idolised the
black West Indians were now angry to see West Indians collaborating with their
apartheid enemies.The West Indian players who had participated in the tours
were banned for life by the caribbean cricket in 1983.  They faced widespread
criticism from their home fans when they returned to the caribbean . The decision to
undertake the tour turned out to be the worst decision of their lives as many of the
playerS left  the caribbean after facing criticism and dissent for their participation in
the tour . One such player was David Murray . After receiving a life ban from
caribbean  cricket Murray and his family lost everything .His wife had given birth
to their baby daughter in Australia while Murray was playing in South Africa. They
faced being deported from Australia and were  unwelcome back in the caribbean too.
They had a newborn and nowhere to go. Today Murray lives in poverty with his
family in his hometown of Bridgetown. The captain of the ‘rebel team’ Lawrence Rowe
was  ostracised in jamaica and was ultimately forced to leave the country . He now
resides in Miami, USA.
It has been three decades since the infamous rebel tour took place. A bunch of
cricketers wishing to contribute something more than cricket were seen as rebels
by the non – whites in South Africa. They were not seen as professional cricketers
but as crusaders who were responsible for further strengthening the apartheid regime.
Their cricketing careers were snatched away from them and after 3 decades the so
called ‘rebel team’ continues to pay the price of trying to reform society for a better
future.

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