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December 9, 2013

A sporting end to an incredible life

Ross Lawson

Adelaide offered a minute's silence for Nelson Mandela, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day, December 6, 2013
It is possible that South Africa wouldn't be a part of the cricketing fold today if not for Nelson Mandela's incredible sacrifices © AFP

Australia v England. South Africa v India. New Zealand v West Indies. December 5th 2013 had a trio of fixtures to whet the appetite of any cricket fan around the world.

But this day won't be remembered for the cricket. Not for any action on the pitch anyway. For this was the day that the world lost a great man, Nelson Mandela passing away at the age of 95. Within moments of the announcement of his passing, social media was transformed into a platform for remembering, honouring, and most importantly thanking.

Without Mandela, one of those games may not have been occurring. In 1970, the ICC voted to suspend South Africa from international cricket indefinitely because of its government's policy of apartheid, a policy leading them to play only against the white nations, and play only white players. Mandela was seen as the forefront of the anti-apartheid campaign, leading to his imprisonment for 26 years.

Upon Mandela's release in 1990, and the fall of apartheid, South Africa were reinstated into international cricket, playing their first international match against India - who were also their opponents in the last game before Mandela died.

But Mandela's effects were felt beyond politics, and will continue long after his sad passing. "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand." Among his abundance of quotes, that is one that particularly occupies the heart of sport fans, with cricket being no exception.

Less than three hours after the announcement of his passing, Australia and England took to the field, in a rivalry comparable to very few in the world. Yet a sombre atmosphere prevailed around the Adelaide Oval on the second morning. Gentle smatterings of applause after a good shot, the mild appreciation of the battle between bat and ball, all following an impeccably observed minute's silence, with black armbands mimicking the white strips. This is just a game after all.

Whilst cricket was not the main sport of the man - rugby, boxing and even soccer took those honours - there was a still a love of something that he helped to bring back to the Proteas: An abiding knowledge of the game, checking in regularly with the team throughout the 2000s, and entertaining the team within his own home.

Twenty-two years on from their reinstatement, Mandela's South Africa sit on top of the ICC Test rankings, with four players at the top of the individual rankings. On the fateful day, they deliver a crushing win over the team at the top of the ODI rankings, with a century from a man who wasn't even born at the time - Quinton de Kock.

If it was fiction, it would be considered too unbelievable to be published. For Mandela, it's the most fitting sporting ending to an incredible life.

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Posted by Dummy4 on (December 11, 2013, 13:44 GMT)

It's a huge lost for everyone, Sir Mandela is incredibly a great man in the world and it will be a dream to have another person with such a sense of humor and his personality. He will be remembered for ever and R.I.P sir. He is a great man, Leader and an honorable human being. It's my honor to salute his service to the world and my deepest sympathy to him and his family and his people

Posted by basit on (December 10, 2013, 6:13 GMT)

Mandela died at 8:50 p.m. local time, but Zuma didn't make his sad announcement until a little before midnight. Weeping South Africans raced out into streets in their pajamas, including one black mom who rushed over to Mandela's house with her two daughters. I am glad that he is in a better place, but I hope South Africans will be able to deal with his death.

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