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Pathbreaking figures from over a century of Western Province cricket fill the pages of a vital new reference work
January 22, 2012
The first editorial in the Xhosa newspaper Imvo Zabantsundu, founded in 1884, was about cricket.
When cricket was revived after World War II in Cape Town, the feeder system for club cricket was a community led by an imam who had been freed from Robben Island.
Afro-pop diva Brenda Fassie's half-brother, Soloman, scored the first century for Langa Cricket Club.
Without The Blue Book: A History of Western Province Cricket 1890-2011 none of these facts would have come to wider light.
Andre Odendaal, the Western Province chief executive; Krish Reddy, the cricket historian; and statistician Andrew Samson spent eight years researching and compiling a holistic history of cricket in the province. The result is 440 pages spanning over a century and recording the details of the 12 provincial boards, including the women's union, that have existed in the area to date.
Each of the boards has a brief introduction followed by a comprehensive list of cricketers who played under that administration and the results of matches. More than 500 players who were largely unknown before the book was written, and 250 matches that were never recorded, are listed, making this the most complete record of cricket in the province.
Apart from Kwa-Zulu Natal, Western Province also has the most culturally diverse history of cricket, and the book aims to capture that diversity. Cricket played by people of all colours is documented - which Odendaal said he hopes will erase the notion of "us and them; that the history of cricket in South Africa is the possession of the old establishment".
Although the writing is sparse, it is hugely informative. The most telling is Odendaal's foreword, "Saying yes to life", which touches on the legacy of the three people he dedicated the book to: Nathaniel Umhalla, Krom Hendriks and Hasan Howa were leaders of the game among their people, and Odendaal has worked tirelessly for the recognition of the cricketing cultures they were part of.
The 1300-word appetiser tantalises with the beginnings of rich, previously untold stories, but the format of the book does not allow for a main course. Instead, overviews of each period, all written by Odendaal, provide bite-sized chunks of a sporting history that could well be a seven-course meal and more.
The focus is on facts and stats, two things cricket lovers treasure. They will feast on the numbers here. Western Province's various bodies have won 123 titles between them in their 121-year existence; and 217 players from there have earned national caps.
Lists, many and meticulous, decorate the pages. They contain the names of players who represented the province in any capacity, officially and unofficially. Some will be familiar, such as Hylton Ackerman and Peter Kirsten. Some will ring a bell, like Vincent Barnes and Faiek Davids. And others, like Ben Malamba, regarded as the most talented black African cricketer of his day, will likely never have been heard of outside South Africa.
Odendaal confirmed that the lists are incomplete, and that there are players and matches that have not been accounted for, but the book provides a solid foundation for a knowledge base that can be added to in future.
The visual element of the book is equally eye-catching. From the gazette notice of the first recorded cricket match in South Africa, played in Cape Town in 1808, to newspaper clippings through the years and photographs of teams from across the racial divide provides the full palette of the history of the game.
As a reference book, this one is unmatched in its genre and will serve as the authority on the history of cricket in the Cape.
The Blue Book: A History of Western Province Cricket 1890-2011
Andre Odendaal, Krish Reddy and Andrew Samson
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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