Welcome Sri Lanka whither South Africa?

In 1982, the New Test Nation welcomed Sri Lanka to South Africa. The test-playing fraternity has risen again to seven. But it is not the same seven who played more or less harmoniously together until South Africa’s automatic expulsion from the Imperial Cricket Conference after the new Republic had left the Commonwealth in 1961. At the recent annual meeting at Lord’s of the International Cricket Conference, Sri Lanka was admitted as a full member and Kenya (formerly part of East Africa) and Zimbabwe as Associate Members.
No vote was taken on South Africa, who had not been proposed and seconded, but the delegates, who had already read a written submission arguing South Africa’s case for readmission, listened sympathetically to an explanation of further developments since the document was compiled. To the solid evidence of cricket played, and teams organized, on a genuinely multiracial basis, the South African emissaries were able to add a letter from the Prime Minister, P. W. Botha, which promised imminent legislation ‘to exclude sporting events from the application of three laws considered to infringe the autonomy of sporting bodies to organize multiracial sport’.
The question for the officials of South African cricket now, therefore, one that will be debated at the SACU meeting this month, is whether to remain indefinitely patient, or whether to force the issue by inviting a team. They will be aware on one hand of the cynical—or was it realistic?—view expressed by one cricket official from England recently that ‘only when there’s a black government in South Africa will there be any chance of South Africa playing Test cricket’.
They also know that the immense wealth in South Africa would increase the likelihood of success for any attempt to buy the services of outstanding cricketers for an international series in South Africa in their coming season. Unofficial plans for a six-week tour in the autumn are already advanced, with a fantastic sum of £60,000 on offer, according to reports from the likes of Geoff Boycott and Bob Willis.
On the other hand, they will know, as those connected with World Series Cricket knew, that nothing can equal Test cricket, the genuine patriotic article, and that the majority of the younger leading world cricketers would be frightened of the consequences of playing in South Africa. The statement by the TCCB warning English players that they risk making themselves ineligible for future Test selection if they play in international matches in South Africa is evidence of the hard-line approach cricket authorities are prepared to take.
The irony of the ICC meeting, as Mr. Boon Wallace pointed out, was that South Africa ‘appeared to be almost the only cricket board capable of acting as an autonomous body’. Some boards are more under the thumb of their governments than others, but it is clear that future tours depend on higher authorities following the near cancellation of England’s tour of the West Indies last winter and the threat to the New Zealand tour of the same islands next year because their rugby team undertook a stormy tour of South Africa (though the ICC resolved that this was irrelevant to cricket).
In Melbourne in the autumn, the heads of the Commonwealth meet to renegotiate the Gleneagles agreement on sporting links with South Africa. Last year in The Cricketer, Dr. Ali Bacher, a tireless worker for multi-racial cricket, called for the diplomacy of Lord Carrington. He would not have known that the distinguished British Foreign Minister is an active President of High Wycombe Cricket Club (I regret that I once replied to him as Dear Mr. Blank because I could not decipher his signature!). Following Dr. Bacher’s lead, The Cricketer now suggests to the Cricket Council that they should seek the personal interest and involvement of Lord Carrington well in advance of the Melbourne Conference.
South Africa’s continued isolation in cricket must not be allowed to detract from the rejoicings in Sri Lanka. Their burning desire to achieve test status has been satisfied. The pros and cons of their case have been well argued in this magazine. There has been no question that their playing standard has been on the verge of test-class and that they will improve the more they play against high-class opposition. The doubts that kept them waiting so long entered upon the possible political consequences, the financial problems of even short reciprocal tours, and the lack of venues within Sri Lanka suitable for Test cricket. Two grounds in Colombo are now considered ready.
Sri Lanka is a country where old-fashioned courtesy still comes naturally. It is a hot and humid place for cricket, and as Sri Lankan umpires can be given the necessary experience, it should be a popular place for visiting teams to play Test cricket.
Welcome Sri Lanka whither South Africa?
Welcome to Sri Lanka, or South Africa? Sri Lanka is a country where old-fashioned courtesy still comes naturally. Source