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The Roar


The story behind the South African rebel tours

Roar Pro
14th February, 2016
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South Africa was banned from playing international cricket for a long time due to their pursuance of a the Apartheid policy.

In 1980s, it prompted them to lure players from other cricketing nations in organising rebel tours to South Africa. It wasn’t that difficult those days – the cricketers were paid peanuts.

So frustrated were many West Indies players in 1981 of not finding a place in their team, that they took part in the first ever rebel tour organised by South Africa. It was ironically captained by Alvin Kallicharan, who refused to take part in the 1977 Packers Series.

It made sense, as by 1981 he was past his peak, on the verge of retirement. He could not resist the temptation of $120,000 after tax offered by South Africa, a gargantuan amount at that time, especially when a starving West Indies Cricket board presiding over a bunch of talented cricketers not paid anywhere close to $120K.

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A point to be noted that on this tour was that Colin Croft and Sylvester Clarke spearheaded the rebel attack. They were fast enough to force the Proteas batsmen to wear helmets for the first time.

In 1982, Graham Gooch lead an English rebel tour to South Africa. There was a veil of secrecy regarding the tour. Even the British press – which can smell a ripe fart from miles away – didn’t have a clue until their team landed in Johannesburg. It pretty much constituted the English Test 11, except Ian Botham, who supposedly refused to go on board. His reason was that he couldn’t think of making an eye contact with his English county buddy Vivian Richards had Botham participated in that rebel tour to an officially racist South Africa.

I read Graham Gooch’s autobiography Gooch in 1996, which I grabbed from a tiny bookstore in Liverpool. The book was an awesome read. As the skipper of that infamous tour, Gooch debunked this myth about Botham giving the South Africa rebel tour a miss.

He suggested Botham’s inability to make to the Tour had more to do with the amount of money he demanded from the South Africans, than his concern for his friendship with Richards.


But unlike the West Indians who were banned for lifeime, Gooch’s 12 – called ‘The Dirty Dozen Dicks’ by the British – were only banned for three years. When Gooch was back with a bang in 1985, another rebel tour lurked in the horizons in Australia. It was captained by Kim Hughes, the Aussie who just resigned from the captaincy after a bad series against the Windies.

Similar to the English board, the Australian board banned them for no more than three years.

In 1989, Mohinder (Jimmy) Amarnath was approached to captain an rebel tour of Indian cricketers. Roger Binny and Madan Lal were part of the team.

Amarnath was unceremoniously dropped from Indian squad as he called the BCCI selectors a “bunch of jokers”.

Amarnath and his team, who hardly any career left ahead of them, chickened out. They had nothing to lose, for a couple of years later in 1991 South Africa was welcomed back. The animosity related to Apartheid and the rebel tours was dumped to the dustbins of history.