Published on September 20th, 2017 | by Arunabha Sengupta0
CS Flashback: The idea of regular rebel tours is born🕓 Reading time: 3 minutes
Nottingham, July 17, 1982.
They played 55-over matches in England those days.
At Trent Bridge, Pakistan started well. Mohsin Khan and Mudassar Nazar put on 102 for the first wicket, and then Zaheer Abbas struck the ball sweetly to compile a brisk half-century. The total on the board read 250 for 6. Not imposing by modern standards, but a fighting one for the era.
In response, England unleashed David Gower as an opener. Well, given there was Chris Tavare at the other end, one did need a fluent stroke-player to start things off. It did not quite work out that way. Gower’s 17 was slower than Tavare’s eventual strike rate of 57.83 in that innings. But then, Tavare scored 48, and Gower would probably have improved his rate had he got that many. After all, those were the days when batsmen took their time to get in and settle down in ODIs.
The slowish start notwithstanding, England coasted to victory with plenty to spare, thanks to a sparkling 118 off 121 balls by Allan Lamb.
The experiment with the openers had been a necessity. England had tried Barry Wood earlier in the summer when the Indians had been around. Neither Graham Gooch nor Geoff Boycott were available.
It had been Gooch who had led the ‘Rebel’ Englishmen to South Africa in March that year. Boycott had been a key member of the side, alongside other stalwarts like Derek Underwood, John Emburey, Mike Hendrick, John Lever, Alan Knott and Peter Willey. Veteran opening batsman Dennis Amiss had also been there.
The players had been administered slaps on the wrist by the Board, especially after the global outrage the tour had sparked off among press and politicians. They had been served a 3-year ban, effectively ending Boycott’s international career and taking a chunk out of Gooch’s.
After all, in the Houses of Parliament, they had been labelled ‘the Dirty Dozen’. (the original squad had been of 12 cricketers, and 3 more had been added to the side as cover for possible injuries)
The reaction in South Africa, however, had been markedly different. The press and politicians had hailed the series as the return of international cricket to the land. The Englishmen were quite ordinary in their performances on the field, most of them either rusty or over the hill. But there had been a lot of enthusiasm around the cricket as the Springboks won the ‘Test’ series 1-0 and the ‘One Day International’ contests 3-0.
In the white bubble, there had been dreams of the tour actually accomplishing the return of regular visits to the pariah land by official sides.
On the stands that day at Trent Bridge, watching the England-Pakistan encounter, were three gentlemen, known as the Big Three of South African cricket. There was Joe Pamensky, president of the South African Cricket Union; Geoff Dakin, his deputy; and Ali Bacher, the captain of the last official South African side and a ‘special consultant’ for the group.
They were supposed to attend the International Cricket Conference at Lord’s four days later. They were supposed to put their case for South Africa’s re-admittance into the international fold. And they knew they would not be entertained by the rest of the attendees.
It was while driving back from Trent Bridge that day that it hit Bacher that it would be impossible to get back into world cricket through the ‘front door’. He spoke to Pamensky and Dakin. He urged them to understand that they were on their own, and had to look after themselves.
It was on that day that the future years of South African cricket were determined. According to Bacher: “I think that was when the whole direction and philosophy of South African cricket was conceived.”
Thus started the recruitment. Arosa Sri Lanka arrived in late 1982. A crack West Indian side was lured with more money than they had ever seen, and they arrived, Lawrence Rowe, Collis King, Sylvester Clarke, Colin Croft, Alvin Kallicharran, Franklyn Stephenson and all of them, in 1982-83 and then again in 1983-84.
When the Prudential World Cup was being held in England in 1983, Bacher had dinner with Australian cricketers. Plans were hatched, and along they came under Kim Hughes in 1985-86 and 1986-87.
And finally, there was the Mike Gatting-led tour of 1989-90.
The seed of the rebel tours was planted during that car ride back from Trent Bridge. And, while the world protested, that policy helped to keep the flame of South African cricket burning, so that they could make the world sit up and take notice almost as soon as they returned to the fold.