Johannesburg: Cricket South Africa (CSA) recalled India’s role in helping them return to international fold after nearly four decades of isolation, at a gala dinner here to mark the silver jubilee of non-racial cricket in the country.
“They welcomed us back with open arms,” CSA said in a video message as dancers performed to the music of A R Rahman’s Oscar-winning song ‘Jai Ho’.
Reminding the audience that Clive Rice had led the historic first tour to India, CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat read a moving message from the late captain’s widow, who though was not present on the occasion. Former cricket supremo Dr Ali Bacher recalled how the different cricket boards that had been racially divided under apartheid had come together to start developing the sport.
“For the first time, people had an equal chance to represent their country at international level,” Bacher said.
“Until then, South Africa could only play against Australia, New Zealand and England. Now, for the very first time, India, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka made the sky the limit and the future for South African cricket was awesome,” Bacher added.
South Africa coach Vincent Barnes shared how white colleagues at his workplace were granted special leave to go and play Tests while he and other Black players were refused such leave of absence.
“With no facilities, our kids learnt to play on the streets with makeshift wickets, which is when I decided that I could make a significant difference by giving other youngsters the opportunity that I never had through coaching,” Barnes said, adding that he had to go overseas to qualify as a coach.
Proteas captain AB de Villiers said he was only eight years old when the transformation in South African cricket started following the release of Nelson Mandela. CSA President Chris Nenzani said the signing of the accord between the different cricket unions was designed to make cricket a tool for nation building.
“There are only about 4,000 schools out of about 30,000 (in the country) that have cricketing facilities that can be described as adequate, which gives us a sense of the enormity of the task that lies ahead of us.
“Our national team must be a team that represents all in our country that inspires all of our people,” Nenzani concluded.