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Posts Tagged ‘Aussie Rebels’

From the very start of reading and writing The Rebel Tours, the cricket itself has been a source of great fascination to me. As we have seen in previous weeks, the strength of the home side was easily equal to most Test nations and some great names visited the republic.

True, the matches were not the most important thing amidst the global outrage. But to my mind they are made more intriguing by the wider context. The volume of criticism outside South Africa was matched by the hype inside the country. What was the nature of the sport played in the eye of the storm?

The early tours were famously certainly modest. The first, in 1982 by an English squad, produced an on-field spectacle that made a mockery of the immense publicity. Despite the presence of four players who reside in the highest echelons of English cricket history – Graham Gooch, Geoffrey Boycott, Alan Knott and Derek Underwood – the tour was a lesson in preparation and cohesion. Pulled together at the last minute, they didn’t win a game although the South African Cricket Union, the government and the newspapers were relentlessly enthusiastic in championing authentic ‘international’ cricket.

The next series, South Africa versus Arosa Sri Lanka, was even worse. Under Test captain Bandula Warnapura and with internationals sprinkled through the side, the visitors were humiliated. For the home side Barry Richards took to getting himself out deliberately, so embarrassing were the claims to ‘international’ cricket. Still SACU fined those Springboks who publicly questioned their ‘international’ status.

Only in 1983 did things get interesting. It was then a popular view that the second and third best teams in world cricket were the West Indies 2nd XI and South Africa. So when Lawrence Rowe captained a team of Caribbean rebels the standard was ratcheted. The Springboks got a shock – after the facile successes against English and Sri Lankan opposition, the West Indians edged them out over two series. South African batsmen who had never before worn helmets changed their minds facing Colin Croft, Sylvester Clarke and Ezra Moseley.

By the time Kim Hughes’ Australians arrived in 1985/6, laying waste to Allan Border and the official side’s Ashes hopes in the process, the SACU hype machine was more or less out of control. Ali Bacher spluttered, ‘The public think Donald Bradman and his Invincibles are arriving.’

These two series were notable for a changing landscape in Cape cricket. Omar Henry made his Springbok debut. Amateur umpires went on strike in protest at Clive Rice’s hard-nosed “professionalism”. And South Africa experimented with fireworks and floodlights, not so much embracing the modern era as prodding it uncertainly. At one day-night ‘international’ an Australian batsman’s request to turn the floodlights on was met with official confusion. By the time the groundsman had been located at a car park braai, Rice had used his pacemen to skittle the Aussies in the half-darkness. The lights came on for the ‘Boks to claim an easy win.

A beacon of dignity throughout these latter series was Graeme Pollock. Where his contemporaries Richards, Mike Procter and Vince van der Bijl had retired, he endured. Ten years’ isolation had not harmed his position in the all-time averages. Nor had they weakened his immense power or hunger for runs. Aussie rebel Mike Haysman reported fielding a Pollock drive on the boundary and being knocked over the rope by the force of the shot. The left-hander was 42 years old.

Jimmy Cook, who with Peter Kirsten was alone in playing all 19 rebel ‘Tests’ says, ‘It’s sad that the kids of today don’t know how good Graeme Pollock was. I do a lot of coaching and I talk to kids about the good batsmen and they talk about Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs. And I say to them, “Guys, with all due respect, they’re not Graeme Pollock.”

‘Graeme Pollock was very, very special. He was just incredible, prone to getting out early but if you didn’t get him early on then you knew you were in huge trouble. He was just an amazing player, he hardly moved his feet – he had such an unbelievable eye and a sense of touch.’

Pollock accumulated 1376 unofficial ‘Test’ runs at over 65 – an average some 20 runs better than any team-mate including Cook, Kirsten and Rice. For better or worse the new challenge of rebel cricket provides an extra dimension to a career diminished by fate.

In truth there is no argument that the matches were at least first-class standard. A ‘Rebel Tours Select XI’ illustrates the strength of talent on display: Gooch, Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Pollock, Rowe, Procter, Knott, Clarke, Underwood, Croft, Allan Donald.

That battle is wholly political and if the nay-sayers have a point they must acknowledge a discrepancy here: SACU-approved Currie Cup cricket is remembered in the first-class books (not to mention South Africa in Tests before 1970….) so why not SACU-approved ‘international exhibitions’?

However the claim to international status is utterly false. For one thing most of that Select XI is well past its best: only Gooch, Clarke and Donald would be better after the tours than before them. For another it is not enough to say that forgotten rebel stars such as Ajit de Silva, David Murray or Steve Smith might have had 50 Test caps. That is not how it works. They didn’t, and that is the end of it.

Most tellingly, nearly every leading player in the series recognised rebel cricket as a poor imitation of the real thing. The exceptions, such as Colin Croft’s demands for full international status for the rebel games, are praying for a forgiveness that will never come. Van der Bijl, one of the few leading South Africans not to get at least one cap before or after isolation, compares the rebel ‘Tests’ unfavourably with Currie Cup matches.

Nevertheless, beyond their status as statistical curios the 1980s rebel ‘internationals’ are worth remembering for at least three reasons:

1) Matches featuring so many illustrious names are a legitimate source of interest in the game’s history. They have not been detailed anywhere else and any self-respecting cricket tragic needs no bigger reason to take an interest;

2) At its best, the rebel cricket makes for a great story. In particular the series between South Africa and the West Indian XI, punctuated with brilliant on-field battles and off-field disputes, are games worth remembering;

3) “The cricket was not the point of the rebel tours” rather misses the point. Yes, much of the rebel cricket made a mockery of the off-field attention. But where it was farcical or futile, this is itself insightful and often wryly laughable. Compared to the immense hype South Africa afforded the rebel tours, the reality of the matches helps to explain the real reason for their taking place.

  • A version of this article was first published by Cricket365.com on 17 November, 2009.

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1986-7 Australian XI

Omar Henry became the first ‘coloured’ man to wear a Springbok cap, South African-born Australian Test batsman Kepler Wessels returned home to a rapturous reception and Cape cricket was Packer-ised with pajamas and day-night fixtures.

Yet the action could never escape the bigger picture. Henry’s selection was marred by allegations of tokenism and Clive Rice’s win-at-all costs strategy produced more fireworks off the field than on. The rebel tours seemed to have run their course.

Squad: Kim Hughes (captain), Terry Alderman, John Dyson, Peter Faulkner, Mike Haysman, Tom Hogan, Rodney Hogg, Trevor Hohns, John Maguire, Rod McCurdy, Carl Rackemann, Steve Rixon, Greg Shipperd, Steve Smith, Mick Taylor, Kepler Wessels, Graham Yallop.

Schedule and results

17 Nov 50-over match at Oude Libertas, Stellenbosch. Australian XI (180/8) beat Boland (178/9) by two runs.

18 Nov 50-over match at Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch. Australian XI (198/8) lost to Boland Invitation XI (202/7) by three wickets.

21, 22, 24 Nov Tour match at University Ground, Bloemfontein. Australian XI (412d/9 & 100/1) drew with Orange Free State (367).

25 Nov 50-over match at De Beers Country Club, Kimberley. Australian XI (248/5) beat Griqualand West (168) by 80 runs.

27-29 Nov Tour match at Harmony Cricket Club, Virginia. Australian XI (347/6d & 128/5d) lost to President’s XI (215/5d & 261/7) by three wickets.

30 Nov 50-over match at Harmony Cricket Club, Virginia. President’s XI (185) lost to Australian XI (149/9 from 39.5 overs) on faster scoring rate.

2, 3, 4 Dec Tour match at Jan Smuts Ground, East London. Border (358) drew with Australian XI (519/8).

6 Dec 1st ‘Day-Night International’ at Centurion Park, Verwoerdburg. Australian XI (238/5 from 44 overs) lost to South Africa (239/4) by six wickets.

8 Dec 2nd ‘Day-Night International’ at Wanderers, Johannesburg. Australian XI (149 from 40 overs); South Africa (3/1). No result due to rain.

10 Dec 3rd ‘Day-Night International’ at Newlands, Cape Town. Australian XI (85) lost to South Africa (86/2) by eight wickets.

10 Dec 25-over match at Newlands, Cape Town. Australian XI (153/5) lost to South Africa (154/4) by six wickets.

12-14 Dec Tour match at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Eastern Province (117 & 125) lost to Australian XI (326/7d) by an innings and 84 runs.

17 Dec 4th ‘Day-Night International’ at Kingsmead, Durban. South Africa (183/9 from 48 overs) lost to Australian XI (153/4 from 39.1 overs) on faster scoring rate.

19-21 Dec Tour match at Kingsmead, Durban. Australian XI (227/2d & 238/6d) lost to Natal (234/3d & 232/4) by six wickets.

24, 26, 27, 28 1st ‘Test’ at Wanderers, Johannesburg. South Africa (254 & 182) beat Australian XI (142 & 245) by 49 runs.

1, 2, 3, 5, 6 Jan 2nd ‘Test’ at Newlands, Cape Town. South Africa (493 & 257/3) drew with Australian XI (496).

9-11 Jan Tour match at Jan Smuts Ground, East London. South African Invitation XI (165 & 121) lost to Australian XI (332) by an innings and 46 runs.

13-15 Jan Tour match at Jan Smuts Stadium, Pietermaritzburg. South African Universities XI (240/9d & 128/2) drew with Australian XI (448).

17, 19, 20, 21, 22 Jan 3rd ‘Test’ at Kingsmead Durban. Australian XI (264 & 339) drew with South Africa (350 & 143/7).

24, 26, 27 Jan Tour match at Centurion Park, Verwoerdburg. Northern Transvaal (315/8d & 217/9d) drew with Australian XI (281/3d & 219/7).

30, 31 Jan, 1, 3, 4 Feb 4th ‘Test’ at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Australian XI (455/9d & 333/4) drew with South Africa (533).

7 Feb 1st ‘ODI’ at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. South Africa (316/6) beat Australian XI (310) by six runs.

10 Feb 2nd ‘ODI’ at Newlands, Cape Town. Australian XI (199/7 from 47.4 overs) lost to South Africa (188/2 from 40.3 overs) on faster scoring rate.

12 Feb 3rd ‘ODI’ at Centurion Park, Verwoerdburg. South Africa (237/9) lost to Australian XI (238/5) by five wickets.

14 Feb 4th ‘ODI’ at Wanderers, Johannesburg. Australian XI (175/9) lost to South Africa (176/6) by four wickets.

Notes:
South Africa won the four-match ‘Day-Night’ series 2-1.
South Africa won the four-match ‘ODI’ series 3-1.
South Africa won the four-match ‘Test’ series 1-0.

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1985-6 Australian XI

The Australian tours had been a long time coming. The rivalry between the Springboks and Wallabies was the closest South African cricket had to rugby union’s battles with the New Zealand All Blacks. The arrival of a team in baggy green caps had been awaited keenly since the legendary 4-0 whitewash in 1970.

Graeme Pollock, now past 40, decided to delay his retirement for the reunion and the opposition looked strong on paper. Captained by Kim Hughes, their bowling attack in particularly had pedigree: Rod McCurdy, Rodney Hogg, Terry Alderman, Carl Rackemann and John Maguire might all have been in England for the 1985 Ashes but instead pursued the rebel route. For the Springboks, Clive Rice was installed as captain which led to a rapid escalation in aggression – opponents and umpires alike faced a mean machine.

Squad: Kim Hughes (captain), Terry Alderman, John Dyson, Peter Faulkner, Mike Haysman, Tom Hogan, Rodney Hogg, Trevor Hohns, John Maguire, Rod McCurdy, Carl Rackemann, Steve Rixon, Greg Shipperd, Steve Smith, Mick Taylor, Graham Yallop.

Schedule and results

22, 23, 25 Nov Tour match at Ramblers Club, Bloemfontein. Australian XI (345/8d & 301/5d) drew with Orange Free State (319 & 76/1).

27 Nov 50-over (day/night) match at Technikon Ground, Pretoria. Northern Transvaal (211/9) beat Australian XI (204) by seven runs.

29, 30 Nov, 2 Dec Tour match at Berea Park, Pretoria. South Africa Board President’s XI (150 & 126) lost to Australian XI (186 & 91/5) by five wickets.

4 Dec 50-over (day/night) match at Wanderers, Johannesburg. Transvaal (269/3) beat Australian XI (211/6) by 58 runs.

6-8 Dec Tour match at Jan Smuts Ground, East London. Border (168) drew with Australian XI (236/8).

11 Dec 50-over (day/night) match at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Australian XI (222/7) beat Eastern Province (217/9) by five runs.

13- 15 Dec Tour match at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Australian XI (382/9d & 101/1d) lost to Eastern Province (235 & 250/8) by two wickets.

17-19 Dec Tour match at Oude Libertas, Stellenbosch. Boland (271 & 159/6) drew with Australian XI (456/9d).

21 Dec 50-over match at Newlands, Cape Town. Australian XI (260/4) beat Western Province (212/9) by 48 runs.

23 Dec 50-over (day/night) match at Kingsmead, Durban. Australian XI (234/6) beat Natal (206) by 28 runs.

26-29 Dec 1st ‘Test’ at Kingsmead, Durban. South Africa (393 & 203/7d) drew with Australian XI (359 & 32/2).

1-4 Jan 2nd ‘Test’ at Newlands, Cape Town. South Africa (430 & 202/5d) drew with Australian XI (304 & 224/4).

6-8 Jan Tour match at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. South African Universities (219 & 237/5d) drew with Australian XI (220/9d & 203/9).

10, 11, 13 Jan Tour match at Berea Park, Pretoria. Australian XI (229 & 326/2d) beat Northern Transvaal (190 & 340) by 25 runs.

16, 17, 18, 20, 21 Jan 3rd ‘Test’ at Wanderers, Johannesburg. South Africa (211 & 305) beat Australian XI (267 & 61) by 188 runs.

24 Jan 1st ‘ODI’ (day/night) at Wanderers, Johannesburg. Australian XI (197/5) beat South Africa (151) by 46 runs.

26 Jan 2nd ‘ODI’ at Kingsmead, Durban. South Africa (221/6) lost to Australian XI (224/6) by four wickets.

28 Jan 3rd ‘ODI’ at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. South Africa (223/9) beat Australian XI (151) by 72 runs.

30 Jan 4th ‘ODI’ at Newlands, Cape Town. South Africa (234/9) beat Australian XI (210) by 24 runs.

1 Feb 5th ‘ODI’ at Wanderers, Johannesburg. Australian XI (185/7 from 49 overs) lost to South Africa (189/5) by five wickets.

3 Feb 50-over match at De Beers Country Club, Kimberley. Australian XI (219/9) lost to Griqualand West (221/4) by six wickets.

5 Feb 6th ‘ODI’ at Berea Park, Pretoria. Australian XI (272/6) lost to South Africa (273/4) by six wickets.

Notes:
South Africa won the six-match ‘ODI’ series 4-2.
South Africa won the three-match ‘Test’ series 1-0.

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