1992 January 1, 2011

South Africa return the favour

When the time came for South Africa to host their first international series after readmission, it was only natural they pick India

On January 9 in the New Year, India and South Africa will meet at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium in a Twenty20 game as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Indian indentured workers in the province of Natal. That game, at one of the venues of the FIFA World Cup, is expected to attract the biggest crowd for a cricket match in the country, but its foundations were laid almost 18 years ago when international cricket returned to South Africa following decades of boycott due to apartheid. The Indian team, in 1992-93, became the first recognised non-white national side to tour South Africa, and it was no surprise that Durban, with its large diaspora and ties with the motherland, put on a huge reception and staged the first Test.

The tour - labelled the Friendship Series - was South Africa's way of reciprocating India's efforts in ending the country's sporting isolation in 1991. India had been among the principal opponents of apartheid - it snapped diplomatic ties with South Africa in 1948 following the electoral victory of the National Party, which implemented the apartheid laws. But Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990, the return of the African National Congress (ANC), the movement towards establishing a multi-racial democracy and emotional links with its large Indian population all boosted the possibility of restoring relations.

Ali Bacher, the former South Africa batsman who captained them in their previous Test series, in 1970-71, led the effort in pushing for full-member status within the ICC after becoming the managing director of the unified United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA). India's vote - with backing from its government - played a critical role in achieving it. And when a home series against Pakistan was cancelled, India called on South Africa to fill the breach. Within days Clive Rice led South Africa on a three-match tour of India to mark his country's return to international cricket. A year later it was India's turn to tour.

"In 1991, our reintroduction into world cricket, at the ICC level, was proposed by India," Bacher said. "Because of this we said to them that when we have our first international tour into South Africa, it would be India, as a gesture of appreciation for their support for our return to international cricket. We offered it to them. They never said it should be part of the deal. It came from us and obviously we kept our word."

The tour served as a successful example of sporting diplomacy, given the political backdrop and the mutual desire to improve ties, and the significance of India's visit expressed itself in the reception the cricketers received from the Indian community. Hundreds cheered on the streets of Durban during a motorcade reception, and there was little doubt over where their loyalties lay - partly as a result of emotional ties but also due to the alienation wrought by apartheid.

"When we went there we were shocked by the extent to which apartheid had wreaked havoc in society," Ayaz Memon, a senior Indian journalist who visited South Africa in 1991 and covered the 1992-93 tour, said. "To see such segregation in real terms was quite extraordinary."

Harsha Bhogle, who was also among the journalists on the tour, wrote this in his biography of then India captain Mohammad Azharuddin: "'The team has come from our motherland to defeat the white man,' they said and their voices spoke of a language of pain and hatred."

"We were isolated for 20 years and to keep the game alive you become more innovative, and market-orientated. You think more about the game, how to survive, how to prosper, how to bring in supporters"
Ali Bacher on South Africa's infrastructure for cricket

The Indian cricketers, for their part, served as good ambassadors, meeting Mandela at the ANC headquarters, visiting the townships to promote the game, going to Pietermaritzburg - where Mahatma Gandhi's struggle against discrimination began - and were helped by Amrit Mathur, now Chief Operating Officer of Delhi Daredevils but then a newly appointed tour manager. PR was to prove an important element in a tour that meant more than cricket.

"There were too many official functions and sometimes we felt, 'Give us a break,' and he [Mathur] used to handle that so well," Sanjay Manjrekar, a member of India's touring party, said. "He was such a good communicator and a guy who spoke on behalf of us, addressed the South African community and presented the Indian perspective. He was also young and he could easily get us to change our minds, and he was on the same wavelength. He did a brilliant job."

The cricket, though, failed to measure up to the pre-series hype. The Tests, especially, made for dull viewing, with run-rates of two or just above and steadily declining attendances. Three of the four Tests ended in draws; only Kapil Dev's enthralling century in a losing cause in Port Elizabeth and Allan Donald's fiery spell to win his team that Test stood out, while Jimmy Cook's first-ball duck in the Durban Test - his maiden Test - after waiting for 21 years since his first-class debut was a sore moment. The ODIs were better received, though the Indians were mauled 5-2.

There were two crucial aspects that had long-term implications - one for the game in general and the other particularly for South Africa: the use of technology by umpires to make decisions, and South Africa's preparedness to host an international sporting event. Sachin Tendulkar became the first batsman to be ruled out by a third umpire.

How did the teams agree to use the system? "I remember Azhar and Ajit Wadekar [the India coach] listened very carefully and they appeared to like what I was saying, but they were very nervous," Bacher said. "But they agreed. And it's quite extraordinary that they never consulted their board, I never consulted my board. We pushed the button and off we went."

The use of technology was not without incident, as Steve Bucknor, who had stated before the series that he didn't need a third umpire, turned down a run-out appeal against Jonty Rhodes in the Johannesburg Test when he was in fact a foot out of the crease. Rhodes went on to make 91. Bucknor realised his folly upon watching the replay in his hotel room and pledged at a press conference to use the third umpire in future decisions.

Floodlights, grassbanks, well-appointed stadiums and facilities were on offer for the tour. Even back then South Africa had in place the infrastructure that would go on to make it a preferred destination not just for cricket events. "It wasn't like India trying to put together the infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games," Manjrekar said. "Though the country was living on its own, it had set global standards very early."

"We were isolated for 20 years and to keep the game alive you become more innovative and market-oriented," Bacher said. "You think more about the game, how to survive, how to prosper, how to bring in supporters. In the eighties we came up with day-night cricket for domestic matches. So when India came in 92-93, it was something we had carried on since the 80s."

The tour, however, was not without controversy and things took an ugly turn in an ODI in Port Elizabeth when Kapil Dev ran out Peter Kirsten after warning him for backing up too far as he ran in to bowl.

"Kirsten was taking too much of a start, taking an advantage," Manjrekar said. "Kapil shared that with me and I said, 'I think you should warn him'. Kapil did that twice to Kirsten, and told the umpire. When that kept happening, I told him he was well within his rights to run him out. And that's what Kapil did, very much against his nature. It was absolutely fair and it was after he had warned him at least twice - anyone else would have run him out the second time."

The umpire, Cyril Mitchley, then at the bowler's end, didn't quite share the sentiment. "After the incident, the UCB had 12 reported cases of schoolboys doing it. They saw Kapil do it, they followed it. As much as I respect Kapil, I didn't agree with what he did," Mitchley told the Indian Express in 2006.

Kirsten didn't hide his displeasure, though what his team-mate Dave Callaghan said, as Bhogle quotes him in his book, best captures the mood at the time: "So this is what the f****** Friendship Series is all about."

What followed after that "Mankaded" dismissal could potentially have landed the tour in strife. South Africa captain Kepler Wessels' bat, later that over, made contact with Kapil's shin and the Indians lodged a complaint claiming he had struck the bowler deliberately. "On one occasion he bowled the ball and Kapil was holding his knee, his shin, in pain and I thought he had cramps. I asked 'Paaji, kya hua' (What happened?)," Manjrekar said. "And he said, 'Nahi yaar, usne balla maar diya mujhe' (No man, he hit me with his bat). That's when Kapil went to the umpire and told them this had happened."

Clive Lloyd, the match referee, while fining Kirsten 50% of his match fee, didn't take action against Wessels due to lack of visual evidence, as SABC, the broadcaster, claimed it had not recorded the incident. The Indians didn't push the case further after that. "There was a responsibility among all of us that we should not make this an issue," Manjrekar said. "It wasn't something that robbed us of a wicket, or like we let go of something that would have helped us win a game. So we just got on with it."

While events on the field may have caused some friction, they did not detract from the momentuousness of the tour and what South Africa and India had achieved together in their cricketing diplomacy. The match on January 9 owes much to that tour nearly two decades ago.

Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kevin on January 4, 2011, 19:38 GMT

    @SSRajan Where do you come up with these numbers? Hawkeye is almost 90% accurate, with the margin or error ranging from 2-3 millimeters which is almost next to nothing. And you talk of the Smith incident, but fail to acknowledge the hundred other incidents where the umpire gives out howlers. Obviously UDRS wont' make things 100% perfect, but it is a lot better than just plain umpiring. Face it, the ICC gave trial periods of this and it worked great. Now the whole world is using them with exception of India for reasons I do not know.

  • P Subramani on January 3, 2011, 18:29 GMT

    The answer to the question about 3-4 sides claiming to be the No 1 is that earlier when the West Indies and later the Australians were the No1 side, their supremacy was unquestioned because the gap was so huge between them and the rest. As far as India is concerned they have become No 1 by some creditable performances which have not been overwhelming. So teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka ( I am happy that Bangladesh has still not got into this mix) feel that they are better than India. It is a mix of jealousy and envy not just about India's cricketing achievements but also over its growing economic status and clout with the ICC in cricketing matters. It is not about matching cricketing skills. England on th other hand is definitely on the rise. They have a superb bowling attack with an enviable bench strength and in my opinion, should get to No 2 or thereabouts soon. They do not ache about India being what it is today. They are only concerned about cricket. I hope I make sense.

  • P Subramani on January 3, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    To addiemanav I wish to inform you that I have followed the gae closely from the time I was nine in the 50s. Those were the days when one only had the radio to enable you to see the game actually.That was because we had some great commentators like the legendary John Arlott Alan Magilvray Michael Charlton and others. One of our own AIR news readers by name V N Chakrapani too had gone off to Australia and made quite an impact with the ABC. With so little to cheer about in regard to India's sports achievements, I can say that Chakrapani's being with the ABC mattered a lot. I am sure there may be many others who share my view. Today I Cricinfo as a fine way of interacting with all the knowledgeable critics of this wonderful game such as yourself. Cricket in those days meant only Australia,England,and South Africa. Not even the great West Indies till of course Frank Worrell came along and the Tie draw happened. Cricket has evolved since and the order has changed.

  • Prahlad on January 3, 2011, 1:26 GMT

    Good, informative article. A rarity in modern media. The incidents you describe indicate that the BCCI once did a lot more than just line their pockets. Good stuff.

  • aaditya on January 2, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    thanks for the info @Majr!!really appreciate ur comments!!seems that u must hav been following the game for many decades..do u think this period where 3-4 teams are claiming to be the top side,is the best thing happened to test cricket??

  • P Subramani on January 2, 2011, 5:13 GMT

    With reference to addiemanav, I would like to say that Australia had come to India in 1969/70 and played five Tests.Bill Lawry a grumpy individual but a fine opener was the captain. Ian Chappell,Doug Walters Graham Mackenzie and Ashley Mallett were in the team. They won the first Test and lost the third. They could have lost the fourth as well after being 24 for 6 at one stage. The point is that this was not such a great team. They went to South Africa immediately after the Indian tour and were promptly thrashed 4-0.Australia's bowling was spearheaded by Mackenzie and outstanding swing bowler and Ashely Mallett, who was one the best off spinners ever to have played for Australia. But they simply seemed nt good enougn against Barlow, Pollock Richards and the rest. South Africa were banished from the scene immediately after this tour. So one cannot say what the world cricket order would have been had they remained. The enigma lay in their absence not in their domination on the field.

  • aaditya on January 1, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    the SA team lost some precious players due to apartheid..who knows the order of cricketing world wud hav been had they played in 70s and 80s??i dont know how good they were,never ever seen a video of richards,pollock or procter!!have read only texts which add to the mystery!!SA won their last series against OZ 4-0 before going out!!must hav been heartbreaking!!does anyone know of any videos available on the internet of these SA greats??

  • P Subramani on January 1, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    I remember all the adulation that the South Africans got when Clive Rice brought his team to India landing of all places in Calcutta where adulation can only be described as mob frenzy. The welcome was perhaps the finest that they could have expected anywhere in the world. For cricket lovers of the time, the best had been kept away because of their Government's aprtheid policy. They could only imagine what might have been had the likes of Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Mike Procter and Peter Pollock been allowed to play with the rest of the cricket playing countries.That denial is what had created the passion to see the Saffers of 1992. When India went to South Africa later,I think what we got to see was Wessels and his team mentally the same as they may have been earlier. Indians could not understand that considering that they had played no small a part in their return to the cricketing fold. I feel it is only now that they are moving out of the aprtheid mindset.

  • Sundararajan on January 1, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    @Gizza : The problem is this time around the mistake is being made by technology. More often than not, it is inconclusive. The hawk eye thing is wrong 60% of the. And we all remember the Graeme Smith-Daryll Harper Incident against England last time.. So much for UDRS...

    @Hema_Adhikari : Remember Kepler Wessels started off his career in Australia. Maybe some of it rubbed off.

    With regard to the Peter Kirsten incident, Kapil was well within his rights to run him out. You could actually say Kirsten played unfair by backing up too far too soon. Wonder what he was complaining about? He got the warnings...

  • aaditya on January 1, 2011, 5:23 GMT

    the 92-93series was supposed to be a friendship series but it did take an ugly turn..maybe it was never meant to be and was only a marketing gimmick..who knows??i dont hav any answer to it!but the way things hav been going on between the 2 sides,even in the current series it does seem that there arent many friends in the 2 sides as opposed to ind-pak teams who also labeled the 04 series as friendship series which went off very well..the ind-pak players share healthy relations even if the governments make goof-ups all the time..but ind-SA plyrs hav a long way to go!!every SA tour isnt without an incident..i hope there is nothing this time but cant rule out the possibility bcoz it still is a long tour!!maybe the 20-20 match on dec9 can bring back the 2 teams back to where they started(when indian public welcomed SA in kolkata in 92 with great joy for their 1st international in 20 yrs)!!

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