Vincent Barnes, Dave Richardson and Geoffrey Toyana, representatives of three segments of the country's society, tell us
Thirty years ago South Africa was readmitted into international sport after a two-decade isolation imposed on the apartheid-state. The country returned as a unified nation, despite vast inequalities, and made an immediate impression in global sport. A year into their return, the cricket team only just missed out on a World Cup final spot; within a few years, they were widely considered among the best teams out there; and in 2012, they were No.1 in all formats. It has not always been smooth sailing. In the last two years, in particular, they have had administrative and on-field crises, and there is a spotlight on inclusivity - or the lack of it.
How far have they come since 1991? And how far do they still have to go? We spoke to Dave Richardson, who played in the first series after readmission and went on to serve as the ICC's chief executive for much of the 2010s; Vincent Barnes, who was an active cricketer back in the early '90s but was not considered for the national side; and Geoffrey Toyana, now well known in the game as a coach, who was still at school then, about readmission and their experience of cricket in South Africa in the 30 years since.
What stage was your cricket career at in 1991?
Dave Richardson: I was thinking it was time to retire from cricket and go back to my legal job full-time. I had started a young family. I was qualified and working for a law practice. I was pretty pessimistic about the political situation and I couldn't imagine that significant change would happen in my cricket lifetime [in terms of a return from sporting isolation]. Out of the blue, we got news that things had moved, Nelson Mandela was going to be released and this tour [to India, in 1991-92] was on. It rejuvenated my career. It gave me incentive to carry on for another eight years.
Geoffrey Toyana: I was in Grade 11 at the time. I was playing in Soweto and we used to play against elite cricket schools like KES [King Edward VII, in Johannesburg] and St Stithians, but we could not make teams at times - we would go to the ground with eight or nine players. I also made it to the [national Under-19 tournament] Coke Week that year.
Dave Richardson was 32 when South Africa were readmitted to international cricket. He went on to play 42 Tests and 122 ODIs between 1991 and 1998
Mike Hewitt / © Getty Images
Dave Richardson was 32 when South Africa were readmitted to international cricket. He went on to play 42 Tests and 122 ODIs between 1991 and 1998 Mike Hewitt / © Getty Images
We were eight kids. There were times when my mom had to decide whether to give me R20 to take three taxis to go to practice at the Wanderers or use that R20 to buy bread. Sometimes I would walk but I had to walk through the political drama of the IFP [Inkatha Freedom Party] and the ANC [African National Congress], walk through hostels and not know if I was going to get shot. People were getting shot from trains and I was a child, walking there.
Vincent Barnes: I was 31 and people were starting to question whether I could still play or not. I was also playing professional football, but I wasn't making money from either, so it became a decision-making time. I decided cricket was the way to go, and I really wanted to coach. I played cricket in England overseas when I was about 26 or 27, and while I was there, I applied and did the coaching course.
At home, our cricket [played by people of colour] was really recreational but at unity [end of apartheid], there was an opportunity to channel more energy into coaching.
What did you think of readmission, and the team South Africa fielded on the India tour?
Richardson: Out of the blue [selection convener] Peter van der Merwe called me and said, "South Africa is going on a tour to India and they are leaving in two or three weeks' time and you're in the squad." I thought: "Wow, an official team!"
On the actual tour, the whole thing was so new and the general excitement of being involved in international cricket was a bit overwhelming. In terms of the team, I thought it was the strongest it could be. Eastern Province, at that time, were dominating the interprovincial scene, as opposed to previous years when it was Transvaal or Western Province.
South Africa's cricketers get a warm welcome home in Johannesburg after finishing as semi-finalists in the 1992 World Cup
Jon Jones / © Getty Images
South Africa's cricketers get a warm welcome home in Johannesburg after finishing as semi-finalists in the 1992 World Cup Jon Jones / © Getty Images
There's no doubt when you looked around, we were a white team for a while and we knew that in years to come, that must change and would change. I thought the team seemed to be universally popular across all races and well supported. I think most people recognised that we had been in apartheid and things were not going to change overnight. And there was a feeling that we still wanted to show we could be competitive and encourage people to play cricket as youngsters and eventually people of all colours would come through.
Toyana: I have some memories of readmission but it didn't register at the time that it was a big stepping stone. I remember that I watched the series with my dad. I know Hussein Manack was invited to go as a development player just to make sure there was someone of colour but there was a gap in terms of black cricket. There was no one in the team like us that we could look up to.
Barnes: I was disappointed. It just didn't seem right, the way the team got selected. It was really just the old [white] cricket union team going and adding one or two names here and there. It was disappointing that players of colour didn't get recognition. It's not about me but there were a number of players, just in the Western Province side, that I thought would get a call-up and didn't get the opportunity. Faiek [Davids, who travelled as a development player] and Nazeem White - these guys were on top of their game and a lot younger than me but they didn't get opportunities.
What happened immediately after readmission?
Richardson: I just took things day to day. The next talking point was when it was confirmed that South Africa would be going to the 1992 World Cup and then the tour to West Indies. All that happened very quickly, and after that I think everyone took a breath.
From left: captain Kepler Wessels, team manager Alan Jordaan, and coach Mike Procter react to the news, in March 1992, about the referendum to end apartheid in South Africa
Peter Rae / © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
From left: captain Kepler Wessels, team manager Alan Jordaan, and coach Mike Procter react to the news, in March 1992, about the referendum to end apartheid in South Africa Peter Rae / © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
The excitement wasn't limited to the team or to cricket. It seemed to be that the whole country was caught up in this fever of readmission and a World Cup. For me, I had just become a partner at my legal firm and I said to them, "I'm going to be away so I will pay the money I earn from cricket as my contribution towards fee generation [for the firm]." Three or four years later, we started to earn more from cricket so then I thought I'd take unpaid leave and keep my cricket money.
I played for as long as I could but the last couple of years I was having problems with my right hip and they diagnosed that it had basically worn out. I was battling and needing to take painkillers to get through a day in the field and I knew my body was not up for it anymore.
Toyana: I never thought I'd be a professional cricketer. I made my first-class debut in 1995. It was the first game ever played at Elkah Stadium [in Soweto]. I played with Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes against an England XI. Also that year, I went to Lord's and spent six months with the ground staff and I realised there is a future for me in cricket. I was fortunate that I had a dad who was always pushing me, but our biggest regret was how many black cricketers we lost at the time, cricketers from Soweto, who just didn't get an opportunity.
Barnes: I was playing club cricket, and provincial cricket for the Western Province B side. I also played a couple of years in the Benson & Hedges series, and I thought I did quite well. A lot of my energy was getting channelled into coaching. And then I started losing interest in playing. I stopped at 34. I played with some of the guys who were playing in 1991 and we became friends.
Toyana: "When Temba Bavuma walks into the change room, he has a black African coach in there with him… My peers stopped playing the game because it was not easy in an unfriendly environment at the time"
Randy Brooks / © AFP/Getty Images
Toyana: "When Temba Bavuma walks into the change room, he has a black African coach in there with him… My peers stopped playing the game because it was not easy in an unfriendly environment at the time" Randy Brooks / © AFP/Getty Images
I thought more board [South African Cricket Board, which ran cricket for non-white players during the isolation years] cricketers would come through the system but they didn't. And that was very disappointing to me. We could have done a lot more to influence selections, to give more players opportunities but that didn't really happen.
How do you think South African cricket has changed and progressed in the 30 years that followed?
Richardson: After I retired, Hansie took the team to No. 1 and they had a golden period, and then Graeme [Smith] took over and they reached No. 1 in the Test rankings. I thought they developed really well as a team.
Then as most teams do, it seemed to be that they went through a dip, lost some top players and had to rebuild.
I always thought the team from my era probably played a little bit above their station. With an average team, we played good cricket a lot of the time. We had our moments. Like we lost all six matches in Pakistan one tour [1994-95 Wills Triangular] but generally we tried to be the best we could in the field and control the things we could control quite well.
Barnes (centre) on coaching South Africa in the 2000s: "We had developed a very strong team, but we lost too many players in quick succession. Now there are a lot of young players finding their feet and they've got to be given time"
Duif du Toit / © Getty Images
Barnes (centre) on coaching South Africa in the 2000s: "We had developed a very strong team, but we lost too many players in quick succession. Now there are a lot of young players finding their feet and they've got to be given time" Duif du Toit / © Getty Images
South Africa over the last few years, they've looked like they've got all the talent in the world and they believe in themselves, but sometimes they don't play as well as they should. They are a little bit slack in the field, they let people gets twos instead of cutting them off, dropping a crucial catch, bowling the odd wide down the leg side - there seem to be a number of areas where they could make marginal improvements and they could have got so much better results. We are maybe on the cusp of improving in that way.
Toyana: Everything has changed. I remember when I started, I was the only black African in the change room. I'd sit in the corner on my own. It was a powerful change room, with players like Ken Rutherford, Daryll Cullinan, Clive Eksteen, and I was on my own. It was not easy. Now when Temba Bavuma walks into the change room, he has a black African coach in there with him. I believe for the generation now, when they come into the change room and there's one of their own, it's a touch easier and you feel more comfortable. I was not comfortable at the time. I had to persevere. My peers stopped playing the game because it was not easy in an unfriendly environment at the time.
It got friendlier. So things have changed, and things have changed for the better. The talented players are taken out of the townships and given bursaries to go and play for KES or Saints, and those playing fields are being levelled just a little bit. It will take time.
Barnes: The biggest change has been in opportunities. If I compare then to now, people of colour are getting opportunities, whereas in the past it was a sprinkling of players of colour in the provincial sides and in the national sides. It was really no one. Now it's different. And the game itself has evolved in every way - in administration, umpiring, management, coaches and players. There are a lot more people involved.
Toyana (right): "In terms of talent, our challenge, especially coming from a township, is that you play five games a year. In private schools, guys are playing 30 games a year. That is a problem"
© Lions Cricket
Toyana (right): "In terms of talent, our challenge, especially coming from a township, is that you play five games a year. In private schools, guys are playing 30 games a year. That is a problem" © Lions Cricket
How well do you think South Africa's transformation policies have worked in this time?
Richardson: I'm sure things could have been done better, they always could, but I don't think people realise how challenging it is. It sounds simple in theory but there's always this extra element to consider when it comes to team selection. It's not a case of who scored the most runs or who has taken the most wickets. It's an extremely difficult thing, not only in cricket but in all walks of life.
The bottom line is that I've always thought of it as: if South Africa really wants to be at the top, and to be ranked No.1 in whatever format or all formats, we have to have a bigger pool of players, and therefore affirmative action is essential. But it revolves around development and what programmes are in place and how effective they are. Having said that, there's nothing that grows the sport more than when your team is successful and is producing on the field. It's a balancing act all the time and I think we've reached the stage now where we have got enough talent of all races to pick the best team to play for South Africa. Hopefully the debates about who should be there on merit or not, there is going to be less and less of that in the future.
Toyana: In terms of talent, our challenge, especially coming from a township, is that you play five games a year. In private schools, guys are playing 30 games a year. There are no cricketing schools in the townships. And then players go on an U-19 week and we expect players who have played five games a year to compete against those who have played 30. That is a problem.
In terms of the policy now, maybe there are times, because of the transformation targets now, which say that three black Africans must play in every domestic team, when guys take the opportunities for granted.
South Africa were a strong team through the '90s, but though they represented a diverse nation, the side was mostly white. "There was no one in the team like us that we could look up to," says Toyana
Mike Hewitt / © Getty Images
South Africa were a strong team through the '90s, but though they represented a diverse nation, the side was mostly white. "There was no one in the team like us that we could look up to," says Toyana Mike Hewitt / © Getty Images
There's not many black African batters who average over 30. It would be nice to have more guys being an example. I expect guys like Temba Bavuma to lead the way for the next generation. And they have us there as mentors. If I was struggling, I had no one to go to, but if Temba Bavuma struggles, I am there.
Barnes: The game has transformed so much. Teams are selected now and half are players of colour and these players deserve to be there. They are the best in the country and this is because people have been given opportunities over the years. There were times when there were brick walls in front of them and those walls had to be knocked down and Cricket South Africa has found ways of bringing players through the system. Sometimes they had to make hard rules and coaches weren't ready for that, but it had to happen.
I was just with the U-19 side and the players of colour in the side are massive players and it's the same with the South Africa A side. It's not like in the past, where it was just about giving players of colour opportunities and it didn't matter how they performed. The players that are put there now have been coming through a system, and looked after in a system and guided in a system to go out and perform. These are world-class players.
What do you think has been the biggest change in cricket over the last 30 years?
Richardson: I felt that people had, to some extent, fallen out of love with cricket. People weren't following their domestic teams anymore. I played in a nice era, because if you were playing for Eastern Province, the people in Port Elizabeth followed Eastern Province and they wanted the team to do well. And we had an inter-provincial rivalry. That seems to have been lost over the years.
Allan Donald and Sachin Tendulkar share the Player-of-the-Match trophy in South Africa's first international match after readmission, in Calcutta in 1991
Phil O'Brien / © PA Photos/Getty Images
Allan Donald and Sachin Tendulkar share the Player-of-the-Match trophy in South Africa's first international match after readmission, in Calcutta in 1991 Phil O'Brien / © PA Photos/Getty Images
One of the goals of the new [domestic] structure is to tell people, "Don't be confused anymore." We had a situation where people didn't know if they should be supporting Boland or Paarl Rocks and there was too much confusion and not enough buy-in from the fans. Hopefully the new structure will help people reconnect with their provincial teams.
Toyana: We've changed our brand of cricket. In the past, two an over in a four-day game was acceptable. Now people are playing more aggressively. I believe we are heading in the right direction.
We also have access to watch games from all around the world, but most people in our country still can't view all of our matches. The games are not on the public broadcaster, so 80% of the population can't see the games.
Barnes: I was with the national team from 2003 to 2011 and 2007 to 2011 was probably where they were at their strongest. We had developed a very strong team and the team was very well led. But then we lost too many players in quick succession. You can't replace these guys overnight. It was a lot easier for players to work their way into the side with a lot of unbelievable players there. Now it's difficult. There are a lot of young players finding their feet and they have replaced great players and they've got to be given time. The only way they are going to get there is to continue playing top opposition. We've got to back them.
Richardson: "If South Africa really wants to be at the top, and to be ranked No.1, we have to have a bigger pool of players, and therefore affirmative action is essential"
Wikus de Wet / © Getty Images
Richardson: "If South Africa really wants to be at the top, and to be ranked No.1, we have to have a bigger pool of players, and therefore affirmative action is essential" Wikus de Wet / © Getty Images
What is your hope for the next 30 years of South African cricket, and for your involvement in it?
Richardson: I'd like us to go down to the golf club, and after golf, people are talking about cricket. I want people to say they are excited about their teams, and when South Africa A is playing, that everybody is excited about the team.
It will be nice to win a World Cup but that's not the be-all and end-all. If people can get behind their team, and view it as their team and be part of it.
As for me, I've run my race now [as an administrator]. I've enjoyed being involved but I think it needs someone with a little bit more energy. I'd be interested in sitting on a board, maybe. But in terms of slaving away, I've done my bit.
Toyana: The key is development. As a coach, I believe in young cricketers. I play them in my side. I played Wiaan Mulder when he was still in matric [final year of high school]. We need to try and develop cricket schools in townships. That's important, for me, and my kids and their kids.
Barnes: The best thing about now is the people I am working with now. I have a strong group of coaches and that has been a massive boost for high-performance structure. It's a group of people who are all working together and all working in one direction, which is great. This is the kind of structure that will take our cricketers to the next level, but there's a lot of work ahead. We've got the right structures in place. And we will win a World Cup. I don't think we need to think too much about the trophy, we need to think about how we get there to win the trophy.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
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