Heart of Darkness

With the West Indies' first World Cup about to begin, there's a very interesting article in TWC by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan about the 1983 West Indian rebel tour to South Africa.

It takes you back to the era in which I grew up as a cricket fan. When any contact with South Africa elicited a range of responses. At times just mistrust, at others open hostility. Nowhere was the latter more true than in the West Indies.

Of course, the decision to tour was chiefly influenced by money, which, along with regular employment outside cricket, was in short supply in the Caribbean at the time.

But, as Vaidyanathan illustrates, that decision had profound consequences for most of the players involved. Only one, Ezra Moseley, ever played Test cricket after the tour, others, shunned in their homelands, drifted abroad. Sometimes, as with Lawrence Rowe, who went to the United States, the primary motivation was to develop business interests outside the game. For others, like Franklyn Stephenson, easily the finest West Indian all-rounder of his generation, who chose to play out his days in Nottingham and back in South Africa, cricket held sway.

Some - Richard Austin, David Murray and Herbert Chang - slid into mental problems, financial insecurity and drug addiction.

In retrospect, with the World Cup almost upon us and South Africa a major player, it can be argued that while sporting isolation unquestionably had a profound influence on the fight with apartheid, the rebel tours were also a worthwhile part of the struggle in that they showed white South Africa what it was missing.

The World Cup is going to raise a lot of questions about the modern West Indies. The tour to South Africa, almost a quarter of a century ago, raised many more.

Maybe I'll manage to answer some of them over the next seven weeks.


Anonymous said...

Only reason i remember 1983 is for India winning the world cup. thatis the singular promonent thought that runs across my mind
Smart Alec

Brian Carpenter said...

I remember 1983 very well too - I was watching the final on TV at my parents' house in the London suburbs and was as surprised as anyone when the game went India's way, with Kapil Dev's catch of Viv Richards off ?Madan Lal the turning point.

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