Krish Mackerdhuj 1939-2004 May 26, 2004

The smiling face of South African cricket

Cricket lost one of its most dedicated and colourful servants on Wednesday when Krish Mackerdhuj, the first black president of South Africa's United Cricket Board (UCB), died in hospital in Durban. He was 64.

Mackerdhuj underwent knee surgery on Saturday, and seemed on the mend before showing signs of heart congestion on Tuesday. He suffered a fatal heart attack in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Not the least of Mackerdhuj's achievements was the important role he played in South Africa landing the right to host the last World Cup. Ali Bacher, the former UCB managing director, explained: "He and I went to Lord's in February 1993 for a 12-hour meeting on future World Cups, and he played a key role in South Africa securing the 2003 World Cup."

Bacher described Mackerdhuj as a "champion for non-racial sport and cricket", and an "outstanding ambassador for South African cricket". He expanded: "We had a warm and close relationship. Before unification he was perceived as a hard-liner, but he was a soft, compassionate person."

Ray Mali, the current UCB president, also paid a fulsome tribute. "South African cricket has lost a visionary leader," he said. "Krish played a key role toward unity, both in his position as president of the [non-racial] South African Cricket Board and the UCB. His strength, determination and spirit were inspirational to all as he led South Africa into the international fold. He was a fine man and a wonderful leader."

Mackerdhuj, a chemist by profession, crowned a successful career in cricket administration when he was elected the South African board's president in 1992. He remained in the position until 1998, and was then appointed South Africa's ambassador to Japan, a job he took to with relish and held until the end of 2003.

Cassim Docrat, the chief executive of the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union, summed up Mackerdhuj's important place in the history of South African cricket. "The first part of his involvement in sport was in the struggle," he said. "He believed all South Africans should be equal in sport, and that non-racial sport could only be played in a free South Africa." Docrat said that Mackerdhuj was a vital figure in the 1991 unification of a previously racially divided game in South Africa: "He was pivotal, and he was the right man for the job of UCB president."

Mackerdhuj was an eloquent and persuasive speaker, and a skilled negotiator whose lively sense of humour in the midst of heated debates was often his most effective weapon. He was an executive member of the apartheid-era South African Council on Sport, and served as National Sports Congress vice-president. He was presented with the State President's award for sports administration by Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Mackerdhuj's funeral will take place in Durban on Saturday. He leaves his wife, Sminthara, and two sons, Prashim and Arvin.