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August 30, 2007
The International Cricket Council (ICC) is considering a proposal to confer first-class status to matches of the rebel tours to South Africa in the 1980s. The organisers of the matches, the South African Cricket Union, had originally deemed them first-class games but that status was revoked by the ICC in 1993.
The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of chief executives of the ICC's member and associate nations in Johannesburg on September 10 and 11. Recommendations from that meeting are expected to be approved by the ICC's executive board.
"The motion is a bit of housekeeping to provide clarity to the statistical community, where there is no consensus on the status of these matches," Brian Murgatroyd, the ICC media manager, told Cricinfo. He said a decision is likely to be taken on all matches played in South Africa between 1961-62, when it ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth, and 1990-91, when the ICC's ban- imposed in 1970 - was lifted by the ICC.
There was no move, Murgatroyd said, to change the status of matches played in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket (WSC). "Comparing Packer's series to the rebel tours to South Africa is like comparing chalk and cheese," he said. "The [WSC] matches were played entirely separately from official cricket in the countries in which the matches were hosted, often in direct competition to them and this meant none of the usual characteristics of official cricket such as approval of venue and playing conditions and appointment of officials was followed. By contrast the rebel tour matches in South Africa were played as an integral part, indeed the pinnacle, of each season's SA domestic fixtures under the jurisdiction of the home board [SACA]."
While it's not known which country initiated the proposal, Brian Basson, Cricket South Africa's general manager of cricket affairs, told the Times of India, "I'm not quite sure but I reckon the idea originated from our end. There is no reason really for any other board or the ICC to come up with it."
A total of seven rebel tours were undertaken to South Africa: two each by English, Australian and West Indian teams, and one by a Sri Lankan team. The members of the West Indian side which toured in 1983, including Lawrence Rowe, were punished with life bans from Caribbean cricket. England players, including established international stars like Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch, Derek Underwood and Mike Gatting were suspended from international duty for three years for touring in 1981-82.
Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant with Cricinfo.com
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Plays of the Day from the first ODI between South Africa and India in Johannesburg