Cricket During Apartheid

With society closing ranks and excluding members of the Durban Indian community from everything from sport clubs to hotels, the Surat Hindu Association was established in the early 1900s in an effort to protect the rights of Indian people.  The association assisted with a variety of issues, from procuring Gujarati teachers direct from India, to religious guidance and the establishment of sports and recreational clubs, such as the Bharat Cricket Club.

Cricket was introduced to to India by the British East India Company in the first half of the 1700s, and they took to the game like ducks to water! In the late 1960s the South African cricket team was at the top of its game, and still competing internationally (albeit under a bit of a cloud), but with political racial tension on the rise, things would soon change.

In 1968 the ‘D’Oliveira affair’ resulted in the cancellation of the 1968-69 tour of South Africa by the England cricket team. Basil D’Oliveira was an England international cricketer of South African Cape coloured background. D’Oliveira was initially excluded from the team that was to tour SA, but after a public outcry in Britain, D’Oliveira was eventually added to the lineup, prompting accusations from Prime Minister Vorster that the selection was politically motivated. Attempts to find a compromise followed, but these led nowhere and England announced the tour’s cancellation on 24 September 1968.

Protesters in London during South Africa's Test visit, 1965

Protesters in London during South Africa’s Test visit, 1965

A few years down the line and the situation had worsened. The 1970 SA cricket tour of England had been cancelled due to protests in Britain, and the Kiwi Cricket Board had declined an invitation for New Zealand to play in South Africa. Fearing suspension from the international arena the South African Cricket Association attempted to organise a tour to Australia, proposing to include two non-white cricketers in the team, a proposal rejected by the South African government.

On the 3rd April 1973, the Curry Cup champions, Transvaal, met The Rest of South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town. The teams had some serious cricketing names in their ranks, including Clive Rice and Graeme and Peter Pollock. By mutual agreement the entire Rest side walked off the ground after the first ball had been played, with the manager of The Rest, Ron Delport, handing a statement to an official of the South African Cricketers’ Association. Jointly penned by the members of the two teams, it read “We fully support the South African Cricket Association’s application to invite non-whites to tour Australia, if they are good enough; and further subscribe to merit being the only criterion on the cricket field”. The players returned to the ground a few minutes later and the match continued, however the demonstration witnessed that day was unique in the history of South African sports.

Frank Waring, the South African Minister for Sport, dismissed the event as “merely a gesture for local and, particularly, overseas consumption”. In international press, however, the headlines of the next morning read “Springboks walk off in colour row”. The tour of Australia never took place, and as feared by the Cricket Association at the time, South Africa did not play again on the international stage for the next two decades.

‘Reverse Sweep, A Story of South Africa Cricket Since Apartheid’ by Dr Ashwin Desai continues the narrative of cricket in SA, looking at transformation in cricket since the late apartheid years. The book launched last month at Ikes Books and Collectables in Durban. For more information contact Ikes on 031-303 9214/ikesbooks@iafrica.com

Image of London courtesy of www.thecricketmonthly.com

 

 

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