South African cricket: a look through history

Ntokozo Zondo

South African cricket has a compelling and long history. This history can be divided into three eras; pre-apartheid era, apartheid era and post-apartheid era.

South African cricket has always been shadowed by racial lines, the earliest instance being Armien “Krom” Hendricks, a coloured cricketer during the 1890s who was prohibited from playing on the national and international team. Hendricks came into prominence during the Malay XVIII against the touring MCC side led by Walter Read at Newlands on March 22 and 23. According to ESPN, “The game in which Hendricks first came to prominence in 1892 was the only time a touring side played a non-white team until the end of the apartheid era.” South Africa’s provinces were asked to send nominations for the 1894 tour of England, and Hendricks was included in the Transvaal and Western Province selections. However, William Milton, the second test series captain at the time, thought that it would be improper to have him represent the team internationally. While a compromise was reached to allow Hendricks to accompany the team in the official capacity as a bag master, the idea was dismissed by Hendricks who told Cape Times, ”I would not think of going in that capacity.”

The National Party coming into power in 1948 marking the start of apartheid which resulted in mounting international pressure to boycott South African sport. South Africa’s 1969/1970 Australian tour was the country’s last official international contact. South African cricket was boycotted in 1970. On 17 March 1973, a non-racial sports organisation within South Africa established the South African Council of Sport (SACOS). This council was formed with the mantra “no normal sport in an abnormal society”. While non-white cricket suffered in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s, white cricket authorities broke the boycott by organising seven rebel tours featuring teams from Australia, England, Sri Lanka and West Indies at the height of the apartheid regime. According to Prof. Goolam Vahed, the tours were funded by white-owned businesses and orchestrated by Ali Bacher, a former South African test cricketer and an adminis­trator of the United Cricket Board of South Africa.

South Africa resumed international cricket in 1991 with a Goodwill Tour of India. The International Cricket Council (ICC) recognized the united cricket body of South Africa (UCB) on 10 July 1991. India’s support was crucial. The support of the white members Britain, Australia and New Zealand was secured and South Africa needed the backing of at least one Black member, and that was India as both Pakistan and the West Indies opposed a speedy South African re-entry.

Makhaya Ntini became the first Black cricketer to play for South Africa in 1998. The proteas now include a variety of ethnicities and religions as the team gives chances to players of other nations in their international side, especially cricketers from Pakistan and India. In a match between Australia and South Africa in 2016 at Providence Stadium, Guyana, the Proteas played with five Muslim players for the first time in the history of South African cricket. These players included Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi and Wayne Parnell.


Image: Sally Hartzenberg

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