Cricket / First Test: England must keep past in perspective: Glenn Moore on how present players have consigned apartheid to history

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The Independent Online
IT WAS during South Africa's winter tour of Australia that Krish Mackerduj, the president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, decided he had had enough ill-considered nostalgia. Amid a welter of remembrance in the media, Australian cricket's publicity machine had gone into overdrive, even using a Krugerrand to toss with at the first Test with the captains from South Africa's previous tour, in 1964, in attendance.

It all commemorated a tour that Mackerduj, like many of his non-white compatriots, did not feel represented him. In 1964 Mackerduj was more concerned with attempting, unsuccessfully, to take his masters degree at Fort Hare University. The South African government prevented him from doing so as the institution - which Nelson Mandela had attended - had been converted into a Xhosa-only facility under the apartheid laws and Mackerduj, being of Indian descent, was barred.

A few years earlier, when in his early teens, Mackerduj had seen his home neighbourhood of Overport, a Durban suburb, ripped asunder by the implementation of the Group Areas Act which forcibly separated racial groups from living alongside each other.

Under the same, slightly amended act, Sewsunker 'Papwa' Sewgolum, the Indian golfer who was forced to accept his prize for winning the 1962 Natal Open Championship standing in the pouring rain as he was barred from the clubhouse, was effectively banned from even competing in the competition.

Thus from 1948, when Mackerduj first walked the three miles to Kingsmead stadium to watch Test cricket, to 1970, when he saw the last Test there before isolation from behind the fences which kept non-whites from 'disturbing' whites, he always cheered for South Africa's opponents.

The point he made in Australia, and which he feels needs to be made here, too, is that this South African side are not an extension of the 1965 tourists, the last South African side to visit, they are a new team representing a new country.

The old country did things differently and their isolation was deserved. It may have been hard on the lost generation of Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock and Clive Rice but what about Krom Hendricks, Taliep Salie and Ben Malamba. Never mind the lost generation, these players represent a series of lost generations for, while it is true that there are at present no non-white cricketers deserving of selection in the national side, it is wrong to think there have never been.

The achievements of Basil D'Oliveira, the one who got away, are testament to that and there were many others. As far back as 1894, Hendricks, a fast bowler of mixed-race Malay descent, was included in the squad for England then withdrawn under Cape government pressure. In the Thirties, Salie, another Cape Malay who was highly rated as a googly bowler by Australia's great Clarrie Grimmett, was invited to play for Kent by Frank Woolley while two decades later Malamba, a black seam bowler, Cec Abrahams and D'Oliveira starred in a non- European squad that toured Kenya with great success.

D'Oliveira's subsequent career was avidly followed and he inspired many players, including Omar Henry, the Cape Coloured all-rounder who, in 1991, became the first non- white to represent South Africa. But, Mackerduj said, interest dwindled under the restrictions of apartheid. 'There were a lot of players with the talent of Basil but we had no facilities, no sponsorship, no money. By the time South Africa was back competing in 1990 we were not such a force.'

While there were a few protests from cricketers, such as the walk-off in the Test trial at Cape Town in 1970, and some whites like Richard Compton, son of Denis, and Andre Odendaal played under the mixed-race organisations, these were the exceptions.

If we are to remember the Pollocks and Procters we must also remember both the Hendricks and Malambas and the many thousands who, though not caring for cricket, have played their part in South Africa's political revolution and enabled the Test match to be played today.

Mackerduj will be at Lord's today, three years after attending the ICC meeting that readmitted South Africa and five years after struggling past the gatemen to try in vain to convince Mike Gatting not to lead the rebels. His feeling is that the Springboks era, rather than being commemorated, should now be 'left in the history books'.

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