New book tells tales of SA cricket never heard before
● Robert Sobukwe’s followers have had enough of the arrogance of the African National Congress. So they cut ties and formed the Pan-Africanist Congress.
Helen Suzman and comrades decide the United Party are dead in the water, and establish the Progressive Party.
Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum wins the Dutch Open, unorthodox grip — left hand below right — and all. It’s the first of his three triumphs at the tournament.
And Frank Worrell leads West Indies on a tour of SA that hopes to change everything about cricket in the country and hasten wide-ranging political, social and economic reform, but only lends legitimacy to corruption that has been entrenched in evil, racist law.
No tenders will be awarded for guessing which of those statements is false. Worrell, the greatest cricketer who has and will live ever, never brought another of the “Three Ws”, Everton Weekes, and the one, the only, the magnificent Garfield Sobers, and all the rest of his fine players, to SA.
But he came closer than you might think, considering we’re dealing with the events, real and imagined, of 1959.
According to a new book, “… Worrell not only organised the side for SA but had ties made — in mauve, green and blue
(the colours of the Vic Lewis “showbiz” 11 that he liked to represent in England) — and ordered long- and short-sleeved sweaters.”
It’s not the kind of publication that tells you what AB de Villiers had for breakfast, of which there are far too many in this click-crazy age. Rather, it tells you why people like De Villiers are able to buy whatever they want for breakfast while so many other South Africans have to put up with what they can afford.
“Cricket and Society in South Africa, 1910-1971: From Union to Isolation ”is
Worrell not only organised the side for SA but had ties made
edited by Bruce Murray, Richard Parry and Jonty Winch and published by Palgrave Macmillan as part of their “Studies in Sport and Politics” series.
It makes a compelling case for the importance of understanding and appreciating the strength and significance of the bond between cricket, politics and everything else in the world.
In a properly punchy foreword, André Odendaal, a man as careful as he is clever, lets loose thus on last season’s Australia tour: “The events during the course of the Test series again underlined the truism that the game of cricket has always carried meanings greater than the simple impact of leather on willow.
While drawing on professed standards of ‘fair play’ (which the country, incidentally, fails to implement in areas like its immigration policies), Malcolm Turnbull, [then] Prime Minister of Australia, lambasted Australia’s ball tampering as ‘a shocking disappointment’ and a ‘disgrace’.”
Peter Pollock is quoted as describing the walk-off of prominent white players at Newlands in 1971, in which he was central, as “a huge event for the times, shaking both the government and the cricket administration”. Some of the other players involved still hark back to the episode as evidence of their commitment to taking race politics out of sport. As if it were that simple.
Rightly, Patrick Ferriday, author of that chapter, makes the point that the walkoff followed the cancellation of England’s tour over the Vorster government’s rejection of Basil D’Oliveira in the visitors’ squad, and that “it was the prospect of touring Australia in 1971-72 which caused white South African players and officials suddenly to behave wildly out of character”.
Women do not escape the crosshairs in a chapter by Raf Nicholson. A quote from the 1978 autobiography of Rachael Heyhoe-Flint — “Who are we … to tell the South Africans how to run their country?” — shimmers as a crashing indictment of her character.
My only issue with this book is that, at £95 — a touch more than R1,700 — it is unlikely to be widely read in the society that should take it to heart.
A soft-cover edition is, reportedly, in the works.