The Wisden Cricketer - February

No admission - England NOT in India, 1988-89

Interviews by Nick Hoult
England had suffered a disastrous summer in 1988, losing 5-0 to West Indies and going through four captains. A tour to India beckoned and the selectors named a youthful squad under the captaincy of Graham Gooch

England had suffered a disastrous summer in 1988, losing 4-0 to West Indies and going through four captains. A tour to India beckoned and the selectors named a youthful squad under the captaincy of Graham Gooch. It was to be one of many false starts for England. Politics and some old South African links prevented the tour. Innocents abroad or not, the UN had a blacklist

Graham Gooch: 'What is done is done. We accepted what happened to us and we made the decision at the time knowing the consequences' © Getty Images

Graham Gooch (England captain): It was an important time for me. I had captained England in the last two Tests against West Indies and was appointed for the winter tour.

Rob Bailey (Northants batsman): When you get picked for your first England tour, go through the excitement of that news and then see it taken away, it is very tough. I had worked hard to get in the England side and, when it is taken away, you wonder whether it will come back again.

England were due to play five Tests in India, their first trip to the country since 1984-85. But when the tour party was announced on September 7 it contained eight players who had links with South Africa.

Bailey: I went out to South Africa when I was 18, played club cricket and did a bit of coaching. The apartheid situation didn't enter my head at that age. I just wanted to play cricket and improve my game, which it did.

Gooch: I had played for Green Point in Cape Town when they were the first club to have a non-white player on their staff. I had no truck with apartheid. I was going out to South Africa to play cricket as a youngster and in later life to earn a living.

Bailey was on a UN Blacklist for having been employed in South Africa while Gooch had already served an international ban for a rebel tour. The Indian foreign ministry announced that "no player having or likely to have contact with South Africa would be granted a visa".

Gooch: It's hard to remember but I think it became clear early on there would be a problem. But I had played in India 12 months previously in the World Cup without a problem.

Bailey: I had no idea when I went out to South Africa that I would be put on a blacklist. I didn't know much about those things in those days and it is something you think will never affect you.

Colin Moynihan (then Sports Minister): We adopted a public line rather than hold one-to-one meetings with the cricketers or the TCCB. I said the Indian decision would have wider ramifications for cricket and sport. The genesis of that statement was that, as long as India and the UK were trading and having diplomatic relations with the South African government, it was unfair to deny cricketers the opportunity to play sport and make a living.

Gooch had intended to spend that winter playing for Western Province in South Africa rather than touring India but was persuaded to change his mind when offered the captaincy.

Gooch: I had played for Western Province before and they asked me to go back. When I was made England captain, I reconsidered my position, opted out of that contract and made myself available for the tour.

The England selectors could not understand India's objections. "We don't pick teams for political reasons," said Peter May. The Indian authorities were particularly disappointed that Gooch had never apologised for his rebel tour.

Gooch: What is done is done. We accepted what happened to us and we made the decision at the time knowing the consequences.

Two days after the announcement of the squad it became clear the tour was not going to happen.

Bailey: I'd had a Test match against West Indies that summer and, when the tour was cancelled, I felt that was it for me. The way it was with England in those days, I thought I'd had my Test. Picked, dropped, picked, cancelled - not great. It was all gutting really.

Gooch: It was sad for a lot of the guys. It would have been John Childs' first and only England tour and it was very disappointing for him.

Moynihan: I can understand why the cricketers were upset. Indians were going on holiday to South Africa, there was trade and commerce between the two countries but it was the cricketers who were used to show the Indian government's policy towards apartheid.

The TCCB agreed to pay the England players their £12,000 winter fees while they searched for a replacement tour.

Gooch: Sport is a very visible way of making a political point and you can make an immediate impact. The British government were not banning business with South Africa and I remember at the time in India when you went to buy jewellery the diamonds came from De Beers. It made sportsmen question whether there were double standards. Also there was not a problem the following year when I went back for the Nehru Cup.

Moynihan: It is not for government to tell sportsmen what to do. It was down to cricketers and not the authorities to make a decision. If you tell a player he must not play in country X, then it sets a serious precedent for future sport.

The TCCB tried to arrange a replacement tour to New Zealand. The New Zealand authorities agreed to a seven-week tour and a triangular tournament with Pakistan. But the Pakistan authorities refused and, under pressure, New Zealand pulled the tour.

Gooch: I think I went skiing that winter for the first time.

Bailey: I worked in Northampton. The tour fee helped and it was a comfortable winter but you never know what might have happened. I think the pitches in India would have suited me and I was still relatively young at that point.

Twelve months later Bailey was offered a chance to go on Mike Gatting's rebel tour to South Africa. He was the only player to turn the offer down.

Bailey: I could have banked the fee and been very well off but I did not want to be banned for seven years. I felt I could still play for England.

Gooch: It was disappointing as it was my first tour as captain. I was dropped as captain before the start of the next summer and didn't get it back for another year. Without a ball being bowled I had been sacked. In those days there was political manoeuvring under the surface and I had experienced it before in the West Indies. We were all very pleased when South Africa were readmitted.