Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Forgotten Generation

The other day I was having a chat over a Guinness or twelve with my mate Ishy, who is South African. We started discussing the brilliant players who were lost to world cricket in the seventies and eighties, and I'm not talking those who were lost to Packer. This is about the brilliant South African players who were lost to Test cricket, and all because they happened to be born in a country isolated from world sport. They were cricket's forgotten generation.

Barry Richards...batting far more stylish than his hair
Now before this gets political and people leave all sorts of comments below this blog, it is my intention to keep this cricket orientated only. The regime that was in power in South Africa was a nefarious one, but many of the people I am about to mention did some fantastic work in the townships and helping make cricket a sport to be enjoyed by all. The fact that their records have been wiped from certain parts of South African history, such as the numbers on the shirts of where in history they were capped, or the galleries of the Bull Ring in Johannesburg where their photos have been removed, is a moot point and one that has been discussed on many an occasion.

In the seventies you had the guys who were outstanding in county cricket in England. Eddie Barlow was a quality bat, and along with Barry Richards they would have made a fine opening pair. Richards was one of the most beautiful players around and it wasn't just his namesake Viv who destroyed county attacks in the seventies. Then there was Peter Kirsten who was a serious player. Saying that a hilarious story was told by Kirsy, after a game in which he was the victim of being a victim of 'Mankading' or being run out backing up, live on South African tv. One kid came up to him a week later and said it was easily done, to which the opening bat agreed. The kid then told him that he had done two people like that this week, and the man who played for Derbyshire and Western Province didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Big Vince...Middlesex legend

Clive Rice was another who won titles at Nottinghamshire whilst over here, and Vincent van der Bijl, as well as giving us cockney rhyming slang for haemmorhoids, was immense for Middlesex as they romped to the title in 1980. His 85 wickets and useful runs were also a factor in bagging the Gillette Cup that year too. I have it on good authority that he was also one of the nicest people to play the game and many associated with Middlesex at the time, still speak fondly about the great man.

Another man synonymous with one day cricket in England in the seventies was Mike Proctor. A televised hat trick for Proctorshire, as the team who play in Bristol were known, and his late in swingers were devastating, albeit looking as if they were delivered off the wrong foot. Thirteen wickets and a rapid century against Worcestershire, two hat tricks in two weeks at one point and numerous awards meant that this Natal all rounder would have walked into any Test team in the world as a batsman or a bowler, as Procky smashed records a plenty. Kenny McEwen at Essex was another legend of county cricket, not forgetting Rodney Ontong at Glamorgan. Garth Le Roux was seriously rapid down at Hove and Stephen Jeffries was a useful bowler at Lancashire.

Procky...loved a hat trick or a ton before lunch

The players who didn't come over here who were excellent were Graeme Pollock, one of the best batsmen ever in the history of the game and his brother, opening bowler Peter and father of Shaun. Trevor Quirk was another, and someone I have on good authority was one of the finest drinkers in the game regularly being able to drink people under the table. The commentator was also once given out for 'obstructing the field' deliberately swatting away a throw coming from behind him at mid on, when running from the non strikers end. Finally a mention must go to the outstanding Omar Henry. Henry did eventually play Test cricket, but at the age of 41.

In the eighties there were plenty of other fine players who never showed their skills in the international arena. Jimmy Cook scored a huge amount of runs over here for Somerset and Henry Fotheringham, the uncle of Derbyshire's Wayne Madsen was also prolific. Hugh Page was disappointing in a spell at Essex but was highly regarded in South Africa, Ray Jennings also being a fine wicket keeper before he became an outstanding coach. Alan Kourie also deserves a mention for his slow left armers.

Legga...SA's loss was England's gain

Then in addition you had the players who went elsewhere to play their international sport. Would Allan Lamb or Basil D'Oliveira have represented England with such distinction if South Africa were allowed to play? Probably not. A similar question could then be thrown at Kepler Wessels for Australia, or Chris and Robin Smith for England? Surely the likes of Dave Richardson or Fanie De Villiers would have picked up more caps had they only just made the cut after South Africa were re admitted in 1992 following the fall of the government of FW De Klerk?

So yes, these guys were banned, but in essence you could argue that they were just as much a victim of apartheid as others within the country. They even walked off the pitch once at Newlands to try and put their views of the discriminatory laws across.

Their only crime was to be born in the era that they were.


  1. Sorry old son but you seem not to have been there. The Apartheid regime "nefarious" - oh no it was far, far worse than that! In the post war era South Africa was a pariah, and rightly so. The loss of an international cricket career by a few privileged whites was a small price to pay for change. They weren't victims of Apartheid - they and their families were complicit in its existence. Tough? Maybe. But tell be about one of those you mention - or their family members - who was an activist against Apartheiid. Just one. Sure when they saw the writing on the wall they cried crocodile tears and lined up behind the phoney Ali Bacher. But they and their English co-conspirators like Gooch, Gatting, Underwood, Knott, Graveney and the rest were part of the venal group who thought playing in South Africa before Apartheid fell was the right thing to do. They were all culpably on the wrong side of history. Victims my foot !

  2. I wasn't there Paddy, no. Were you?

    My piece was to point out players who were lost to world cricket not to politicise it. I don't know if any family members of the above were anti apartheid activists in any shape or any form but I am sure Ontong or Henry were probably against it. As mentioned in the second paragraph this is not about politics, which is fairly difficult to write about concerning this generation.

    However I would like to know where you get your information that the above were complicit in the existence of apartheid? And didn't Ali Bacher do a lot of work by organising coaching clinics in the townships? Why is he phoney?

  3. http://www.cricketcountry.com/articles/south-african-cricketers-walk-out-in-protest-against-apartheid-after-just-one-ball-is-bowled-24796

  4. In writing my biography of John Shepherd I researched the South African connection carefully and formed my views. I spent time in South Africa talking to some of the people on your list, and others. The idea that Sport is somehow separate from politics is simply wrong.

  5. Thought you might like to know about Mike Procter's Foundation. He will be in England in June and July promoting it. http://www.mikeproccie.com/foundation.php Top man!