This book is an account of cricket in post-apartheid South Africa; from the tumultuous Gatting tour in which, ironically, the seeds of cricket unity were sown, to the Hansie Cronje saga and the change of leadership from Ali Bacher to Gerald Majola, and more recently to Haroon Lorgat.
It is a story of a new pitch; a quick start full of hope, followed by a steady erosion of the commitments needed to fulfil the promise of a level playing field. Economic and political compromises contributed to holding back the piercing of the covers of race and class privilege. Alongside this, the hurried hollowing out of the “politics of cricket”, aided by black administrators assuming the accoutrements of office, saw very little internal challenge to the lack of transformation.
Meanwhile, global realignments in cricket initially gave South Africa some respite. But soon, the big three of Australia, England and India were collaborating to claim the lion’s share of global funding, thus limiting even further the resources necessary for development in the domestic game.
In a sense, we are back to the Springfield-Kingsmead divide. But there will be no posthumous honours, however grudgingly given, to lovers of the game who are keeping it alive in townships or side streets. Those whose innings are defined by lumpy mats and broken gear garner far less sympathy or note. For is cricket not now open to all, just like the Ritz Hotel; a game of money, dazzle, dancing girls and quick results?
About the author
Ashwin Desai teaches at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and is a newspaper columnist. He is the author of Arise Ye Coolies and South Africa: Still Revolting, The Race to Transform: Sport in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island, The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire (with Goolam Vahed) and Blacks In Whites: A Century of Cricket Struggles in KwaZulu-Natal.
Reverse Sweep – A Story of post-apartheid South African Cricket is published by Jacana Media