Luke Alfred

Remembering Duif the Dutchman

The South African sports photographer captured some of the country's big cricket moments

Luke Alfred
Ramnaresh Sarwan is run out at Bourda  •  Duif du Toit/Getty Images

Ramnaresh Sarwan is run out at Bourda  •  Duif du Toit/Getty Images

There's been great sorrow here in Johannesburg this past week with the death of Duif du Toit, the sports photographer. You couldn't miss him. Irrespective of the weather, there he was, tanned legs in trademark shorts, ponytail waving, his beard getting slowly whiter with age.
He had this trademark phrase. In response to something he agreed with, he'd say "same" in his thick Afrikaans accent. He wouldn't say "Same as me", or "That's right", or "I agree." He'd simply say "same" and nod; then he'd take another sip of whatever he was drinking and give you the gravelly du Toit chuckle.
Duif was what English-speaking South Africans call a Dutchman - an Afrikaner. With its jostling registers of fondness and mild superiority, the word can't be translated. There's respect in there and perhaps awe, combined with the idea that Dutchmen can be, well, just a little different. They wear shorts in the Stade de France in late November; they smoke Gauloises and wear flak jackets and drive Land Rovers without even the vaguest nod to irony, because, well, that's for others, perhaps even the Fancy Dans in the press box. By contrast they are content to file photos three times a day and stand at the back of press conferences and smile when little boys in India come up for an autograph but first ask: "What is your good name, uncle?"
Duif and I toured India together in 2000, then spent ten further days in Sharjah going stir-crazy, trying not to bump into Hansie Cronje at the McDonald's, wondering if we'd ever make it home. Duif had miraculous abilities to find booze in dry states and I remember sitting in his hotel room, nursing a Scotch while we tried to put our finger on what was niggling us. We didn't know at the time that Hansie had been up to his tricks, dealing with bookies, accepting free phones, steering a dangerous line between playing hard and playing dirty. Worst of all, he implicated some of the junior members of the ODI squad in his perverse games: Henry Williams, Pieter Strydom, Herschelle Gibbs. Some weren't strong enough to resist his overtures, others were too stupid to care. To this day, Williams lives with the stain. He's not articulate, so he flies pigeons and tries to forget it ever happened.
Remember, these were the early days of South Africa's re-admission, days of innocence and wonder. We were strangers to suspicion and conspiracy. The dots were all there - Kapil Dev allegedly telling SA management something was amiss; once phoning Cronje's hotel room and feeling that he'd been crying - we were just unable to join them. That only happened later, when Ali Bacher couldn't distance the United Cricket Board from Cronje quick enough and the dream began to smell and go belly up. In the months that followed, the King Commission was nationally televised. Experts were called and we had to wrap our minds around phrases like "the fancy". Marlon Aronstam, one of the locals involved, was called. At one point he learned towards the microphone conspiratorially and asked: "Could we go off the record?" We suddenly all understood why Aronstam was a loser bookie who gave Cronje leather jackets and offered tactical advice.
It's a pity the tour has been condemned because the South Africans played some very good cricket, particularly in the Tests. I'll never forget Mark Boucher in Mumbai. Batting last on a turner, the South Africans needed 163 to win, the kind of in-between total designed to cause jitters. India played Murali Kartik and Anil Kumble, and Sachin Tendulkar bowled some spin, alternating between offies, leggies and generalised filth in taking 3 for 10 in South Africa's first innings. As it was, South Africa wobbled to 115 for 5 in their chase before Shaun Pollock (5) was sixth out with the total on 128. Bouch came in, prodded the wicket and looked about. He clearly wasn't going to die wondering, and his response was to sweep Kartik out of the rough. We watched with closed eyes. He scored six fours in his 27 not out and doubtless Duif was there to record it as South Africa won by four wickets, a far less comfortable margin than it suggested.
So to Bangalore for the second Test. In retrospect, South Africa won the game early, in that Kumble top-scored for India with 36 in their first-innings total of 158. South Africa replied with 479 - both Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener scoring cussed 90s - winning by an innings and 71 runs. Not before Mohammad Azhuruddin scored a second-innings hundred so good it was almost flaky. Next best was Kumble with a two-hour 28, as India fleetingly glimpsed the distant outline of a possible draw. Duif was there to record that one too.

Luke Alfred is a journalist based in Johannesburg