Cricket

When Bacher held forth

The voice of South African cricket strode into the press box at the Super Sport Park here on Wednesday, and eminent men like Sunil Gavaskar immediately stood on their feet as respect infused the air.

Even at 71, Dr. Ali Bacher, former South African captain and head of Cricket South Africa in the past, was his usual ebullient self.

Walking into the venue a day after attending the memorial service of the late Nelson Mandela, it was natural that talk veered to South Africa’s greatest leader with whom Dr. Bacher shared a wonderful rapport, which also paved the way for the nation’s re-admission into cricket after a more than two-decade gap.

Excerpts:

“I went to the FNB Stadium (for the service on Tuesday), I suppose if I wanted to I could have got a good seat, but I wanted to be with the crowd. We got soaked in the rain, but it was nice to be with the crowd, hearing (US President Barack) Obama speak; what an orator!”

“I have pleasant memories of Mandela. He wrote the foreword for my book. Once we went to his home and he held my two grand-daughters and started singing. He was an extraordinary man, he was a people’s man.

One day he told me ‘Ali, call me Madiba’ and I told him, ‘Sir, from where I come, to people you respect, you address them as Mr.,’ and he then he said, ‘from where I come from if you don’t call me Madiba then you are not respecting me.”

“Then there was a game at George’s Park, 95-96, I was with him and then I get a call, from my daughter, he asked, ‘Ali, who is it?’ And I said, ‘its my daughter’ and he said, ‘let me speak to her.’ His presidential aide told me, ‘how can you let your daughter talk to the president?’ And I said, ‘ he spoke to her.”

“He provided a future for South Africa cricket. He helped us play the World Cup in 1992. He spoke to everybody, who mattered in world cricket. He wrote letters to all, we got re-admission because of him, because of that letter that went to the black countries.

“The most remarkable thing was that we got back into World Cricket even before the constitutional democracy had become a reality.”

Refusing to get drawn into the recent tensions between CSA and the BCCI, Dr. Bacher said: “In 1948, India was possibly the first country to remove its embassy from here because of the Apartheid, and in 1992, the first country to propose our readmission; it is an extraordinary story.”


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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 10:32:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/when-bacher-held-forth/article5448861.ece

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