Speech delivered by Mr Mauritz Lindeque from the High Commission of South Africa to the Riverine Club Cricket Club in Wagga Waggga on 22 May 2009
Mr and Mrs Fred Horsley, President of the Riverine Cricket Club
Mr and Mrs Richard Eldershaw, Secretary of the Club,
Members of the Club,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here with you tonight and to visit Wagga for the first time. I hear that Wagga is famous for producing excellent Australian sports stars and I have seen from the log on your website that you have been doing very well in your recent matches. All this makes me wonder whether I should encourage you to do a tour of South Africa, or not. I thank you for the invitation to come and share some thoughts on South Africa with you and for the interest you have shown in South Africa.
I think that most of you would agree with me that it is fair to say that South Africa and Australia are natural competitors in almost every field. This is as true in the fields of business and international trade, as it is on the sports field. We produce many of the same products and are rivals on the world stage to sell our minerals, maize, wheat, wool, fruit and wine to name but a few commodities. Despite this, Australia and South Africa manages to do trade with each other that totalled almost A$ 4 Billion in 2007. I wonder how many of you are aware that every BMW 3 series vehicle, every Mercedes-Benz C Class, every VW Polo and every Toyota Corolla sold in Australia is made in South Africa. On the other hand, every Toyota Camry and Ford Territory sold in South Africa, is made in Australia. It is clear from the above, that we have found niches where each of us can benefit from the other’s expertise and where we can complement each other.
I would argue that fact that we are rivals in world trade creates an edge in much the same way that our countries’ high standings in the world rankings of cricket and rugby can in part be explained by the rivalry between us (with a little help from our friends from across the Tasman). My view is that on balance, this competition is good and that it breeds vigour in our relationship and respect for each other’s capabilities.
This is certainly true on the sports field where South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have succeeded in raising the level of especially Southern Hemisphere rugby and cricket to a level where our friends in the Northern Hemisphere sometimes struggle to keep up.
The high level of competitivety was very well illustrated during the recent cricket test series between Australia and South Africa. In fact, recently Cricket South Africa's CEO Gerald Majola congratulated captains Greame Smith and Ricky Ponting for maintaining what he called the "Spirit of Cricket" theme throughout the home and aways tours by South Africa and Australia. He said: "They provided the leadership that has set new standards for back-to-back tours, both in the content of play and the spirit in which the contests took place. Both captains had teams in transition, and both showed immense grace under pressure during two tours that saw fortunes swing backwards and forwards. It took plenty of guts and skill from both of them to win Test series away from home, and finally share the overall honours three-all. The Proteas edged in front to take the top ODI world rankings, but they were pushed by the Australians all the way”. End of quotation.
In preparing for my talk tonight, I had a look at the history of cricket and more specifically the history of cricket test matches between our two countries. I was surprised to find that the first ever international cricket game took place between the USA and Canada in New York in 1844. It’s a pity that both those countries have since forgotten how to play the game. In fact I would like to share with you what an American author wrote in 2006 (sic?) on cricket in Australia so that we can collectively shake our heads in pity. In his book Down Under, Bill Bryson describes how, during a road trip from Canberra to Adelaide, the only radio station he could find was one broadcasting a cricket test match between Australian and England. First he describes what cricket is like for the uninitiated. He wrote: “After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn’t fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavours look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don’t wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport which spectators burn as many calories as players (more if they are moderately restless). It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning”. Then he describes the commentary of the match as follows: “‘So here comes Stovepipe to bowl on this glorious summer’s afternoon at the MCG,’ one of the commentators was saying now. ‘I wonder if he’ll change an offside drop scone here to go for the quick legover. Stovepipe has an unusual delivery in that he actually leaves the grounds and starts his run just outside the Carlton and United Brewery at Kooyong.’ ’That right Clive. I haven’t known anyone start his delivery that far back since Stopcock caught his sleeve on the reversing mirror of a number 11 bus during the third test at Brisbane in 1957 and ended up at Goondiwindi four days later owing to some frightful confusion over a changed timetable at Toowoomba Junction.’ After a very long silence while they absorb this thought, and possibly stepped out to transact small errands, they resumed with a leisurely discussion of the England fielding. Neasden, it appeared, was turning in a solid performance at square bowel, while Packet had been a stalwart in the dribbles, though even these exemplary performances paled when set beside the outstanding play of young Hugh Twain-Buttocks at middle nipple. The commentators were in calm agreement that they had not seen anyone caught behind with such panache since Tandoori took Rogan Josh for a stiffy at Vindaloo in ’61. At last Stovepipe, having found his way over the railway line at Flinders Street – the footbridge was evidently closed for painting – returned to the stadium and bowled to Hastry, who deftly turned the ball away for a corner. This was repeated four times more over the next two hours and then one of the commentators pronounced: ‘ So as we break for second luncheon, and with 11,200 balls remaining, Australia are 962 for two not half and England are four for a duck and hoping for rain.’ I may not have all the terminology exactly right, but I believe I have caught the flavour of it. The upshot was that Australia was giving England a good thumping, but then Australia pretty generally does.”
Getting back to the history of cricket, the first English team apparently toured Australia in 1862. In 1877, an England team toured Australia and played two matches against full Australian Xis. These are now regarded as the first ever test matches. The Australians won the first test by 45 runs – the sign of things to come. South Africa became the third Test nation in 1889 when it played a test against England. Cricket had been brought to South Africa by British Soldiers when Britain occupied the Cape of Good Hope at the request of the Dutch in 1795 during the Napoleonic wars.
The oldest cricket club in South Africa is the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, founded in 1843. Few clubs in the world can boast such a long existence. The first championship was held in Port Elizabeth in 1876 for the "champion bat." Competing teams were Cape Town, Grahamstown, King Williams Town, and Port Elizabeth. It was won by King Williams Town and the year after that too.
In the year 1900, cricket made its first and only appearance in the Olympics in Paris. The match was between France and Britain. Most of the French players came from the British Embassy in France, so mostly British players played the match. Britain won the match and the gold medal.
When the Imperial Cricket Conference (as the ICC was originally called) was founded in 1909, only England, Australia and South Africa were members
The first test series between South Africa and Australia that I could find record of, took place in 1902/03. This must have been immediately after the Anglo Boer War and was won by Australia 2-0.
Although South Africa lost every one of their first eight test matches, their presence in the highest level of cricketing competition signified the move of test cricket to other parts of the world outside the UK and Australia. In a series between England and South Africa in 1905/06, the South African team made their mark by beating England 4-1. In 1912 the first and only triangular tournament took place between South Africa, England and Australia, with England winning the final match against Australia by 244 runs. Although South Africa failed to win any of their matches, they did draw against Australia in the test match played at Trent Bridge from August 5 - 7 1912.
By 1918 the three test nations regularly competed against each other, although after the triangular tournament, the contests were always played between two nations. By 1939 India, the West Indies and New Zealand had also made their test debut, significantly increasing the popularity of test cricket around the world. International cricket was suspended during World War II, but test matches resumed shortly afterwards.
Due to the then South African Government’s policy of apartheid or racial segregation which launched when the Nationalist Party came to power in 1948, the cricket team only played against so-called “white countries”, such as Australia, New Zealand and England.
In 1961 South Africa left the Commonwealth due to opposition to its racial policies. In the 1963 South African tour of Australia all time South African greats such as the Pollock brothers, Peter and Graeme, Eddie Barlow and Colin Bland emerged. Cricket's opposition to apartheid intensified in 1968 with the cancellation of England's tour to South Africa by the South African authorities, due to the inclusion of a so-called "coloured" cricketer Basil D'Oliveira in the England team. In 1970, the ICC members voted to suspend South Africa indefinitely from international cricket competition. Ironically, the South African team at that time was probably the strongest in the world, having just beaten Australia 4-0 in a test series.
This was to be the start of a 21 year long isolation from international cricket. It was not only in the cricket field that the South African Government’s policies of racial discrimination led to isolation. This became the case for most other sporting codes and the entertainment industry. South Africa became politically isolated as world opinion became outraged by the unfair discrimination against and the suppression of South Africa’s non-White population under the apartheid system. South Africa’s liberation movements, such as the African National Congress (which by the way was established in 1912 and is the oldest Political movement on the African continent) and the Pan Africanist Congress, supported by the majority of South Africa wages a struggle against the system of apartheid. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years and organisations like the ANC and the PAC were unbanned.
In 1991, when South Africa was re-admitted to international cricket, it was able to face all opponents, no matter what the colour of their skins, and India was the first to welcome the ‘new’ South Africa into the international game. Previously known as the Springboks, the Proteas, after an initial settling-in period, adapted surprisingly quickly to the demands of the international game in 1991. The South African side quickly established a reputation as a superb fielding team, a reputation soon backed up its the bowling attack and, after a period of maturing, its batting line-up. In very little time the Proteas became one of the elite teams of world cricket.
As the situation in South Africa started to normalise, it began to emerge that cricket has also been a game that was played and enjoyed by the black population in South Africa. Cricket South Africa commissioned a book on this aspect of South African cricket history, which was published in 2003 and makes for very interesting reading.
Since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, the focus in all sectors of society has been on providing those who were disadvantaged by the apartheid system with the necessary opportunities to develop the skills that they have been blessed with. This has also been the case in South African cricket where Cricket South Africa has been running development programmes. The most famous of these is called Bakers Mini Cricket, which is sponsored by the Bakers Biscuit Company and introduces South African boys and girls from all races to cricket at a very young age. Having been launched by Mr Ali Bacher in the 1980’s already this programme recently celebrated its 25th year and it is estimated over two million children have been involved in the Bakers Mini Cricket programme so far, including some of our top professional players, like Mark Boucher, Sean Pollock, JP Duminy and Makhaya Ntini.
The success of these development programmes is evident in the demographics of junior teams and in the crowds that come to watch cricket matches in South Africa. A recent survey showed that cricket is now the second most popular sport in South Africa, after soccer.
As is the case in the field of cricket, South Africa has made a lot of progress since the advent of democracy, but a lot still remains to be done. The new Government of President Jacob Zuma that came to power on 9 May 2009 has made alleviating poverty, improving education and health care, fighting crime and promoting rural development their main priorities. It is likely to be a long and windy road, but we are confident that we will get there. One of the factors that make us confident is that we have friends like Australia that keep pushing us to new heights. We, in turn, also provide you with some challenges. Currently, for instance South African investment in Australia is higher that Australian investment in South Africa. However, with the renewed interest shown by your mining companies in using South Africa as a springboard into Southern Africa, this is likely to change.
As you know, South Africa will be hosting the Soccer World Cup next year. I hope that many of you will be supporting the Socceroos, who seem set to qualify soon, by traveling to South Africa.
I would like to conclude by encouraging you to seriously consider doing a cricket tour of South Africa. The High Commission would be happy to assist you with making the best contacts to make such a visit possible.
It remains for me to wish Australia best of luck for the Ashes tournament coming up and to express the hope that cricket fans on both sides of the Indian Ocean will continue to be enthralled by brilliant cricket by the Australian and South African national teams for many years to come.
I thank you.