It’s not so long ago that they had no right to choose their government, live where they liked, marry their sweethearts or play cricket for their country. They were second class citizens at the beck and call of the white minority.
Now they were able to strap on their pads after the Australians had been dismissed for a paltry total and walk out together to face the fury of the visitor’s new ball attack.
Indeed they were so eager to get underway that they strode to the centre several minutes before the fieldsmen and stood surveying the scene till Ricky Ponting led his men out“.
This is how Peter Roebuck described the sight of 2 non-white openers going out to bat for South Africa in the Second Cricket Test against Australia.
I was not fortunate enough to witness this historic event on TV. But I could very well understand the importance of the event.
It was in 1970 that ICC[International Cricket Council] suspended Cricket ties with South Africa after tremendous pressure from India,West Indies and anti-apartheid movement. [African Nations and Asian Nations under the leadership of India threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh to be held in July 1970.]
The apartheid system – which saw South Africa ousted from the British Commonwealth in 1961, excluded from sporting events and subjected to trade sanctions in the 1970s and 1980s – started to come apart in 1985.
That year, non-whites won limited constitutional rights and interracial marriage was permitted.
President P W Botha resigned in 1989 and his successor FW de Klerk repealed all apartheid laws by 1991 but only whites could vote and segregation continued. ICC allowed the re-entry of South Africa in to its fold in 1991.
A new constitution enfranchised all South Africans in 1993 and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president in 1994.
Although the job is by no means complete, owing to wide discrepancies in facilities, it is a remarkable achievement. And it has been effected without a bloody revolution. The rise of the current crop confirms that the game is rising in all groupings — only the Anglo-Saxons have fallen back, largely because many have moved to England or Perth. It will take more than a few bombs in Mumbai and Lahore to defeat cricket’s cosmopolitan ideal.