Cricket ghosts: The South African team of 1982 could only play unofficial Test matches against a rebel English touring squad
South Africa's cricketers have just replaced England at the top of the International Cricket Council world Test rankings. Their fans are in no way surprised that their team is doing so well; the real question is how it compares with the great side of 1970 which beat the Australians 4-0. That team had such supreme all-rounders as Eddie Barlow and Mike Procter, not to mention Denis Lindsay, the best wicket-keeper-batsman in the world, but probably what settles it is that the 1970 team had, in Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock, two batsmen almost in the Bradman class. There was no doubt that the team were the world champions of their day — yet they were soon thereafter excluded from Test cricket until after the abolition of apartheid, in 1992.
The South African Test cricketers of that era — and only whites could be considered for the team — were often deeply unhappy about segregated cricket. They wanted to play India and Pakistan and they enormously admired the great West Indies teams of the time. Men like Trevor Goddard — an opening bat and seam bowler, one of the greatest all-rounders of the day — quite publicly made clear their wish to play multiracial cricket, while Clive van Ryneveld, who captained South Africa in their drawn series against Peter May's MCC touring side in 1956-57, became an MP for Helen Suzman's Progressive Party, dedicated to the abolition of racial discrimination, and publicly urged the case for a South Africa cricket team selected on merit. (There was pointed comment in the press about the fact that no Springbok rugby players followed suit.) Naturally, many great players such as Richards and Procter played English county cricket with all races: Richards, indeed, was famous for his opening partnerships for Hampshire with two West Indians, Roy Marshall and Gordon Greenidge. In each case this was the most potent opening partnership in the world.
"None of those men got any credit for their stand against apartheid," says Ray White, formerly President of the United Cricket Board of SA, the sport's governing body. "Many of them have since fallen on evil times. Poor old Neil Adcock, once the world's fastest bowler, was recently ejected from hospital (he has cancer) because he couldn't pay the bills. Remember that they were all amateurs and usually only had humble jobs to return to. In addition, some were bad at handling money. Sportsmen are often naive. They don't know much about either politics or money. Someone like Barry [Richards] was always careful and shrewd but his team-mate, Eddie [Barlow], was far more typical, dying in penury. There have even been some suicides. But the most unfair thing is the way that Cricket South Africa under Gerald Majola showed real spite towards them." (Gerald Majola, the first black head of CSA, has now been suspended for awarding himself large unauthorised bonuses and spending substantial amounts of cricket money to fly his family around the world. His suspension came after all its major sponsors refused to continue to support the national team until the Majola affair was cleared up.)
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