Dr Ali Bacher tells Sky Sports Cricket podcast about South Africa's apartheid years and reintegration
Last Updated: 02/02/20 1:08pm
Cricketer, captain, administrator - Dr Ali Bacher has been at the heart of South African cricket for five decades.
For the latest Sky Sports Cricket podcast, which you can listen to by clicking on the link below, Bacher invited Mike Atherton to his home for an in-depth chat about the Proteas - past, present and future.
The interview includes the 77-year-old's reflections and insights into growing up in a country affected by apartheid, leading one of the greatest team's in South Africa's history as well as the nation's years in isolation and subsequent readmission to international cricket.
Bacher was managing director of the South African Cricket Union in 1990 when Mike Gatting led an English squad on a rebel tour that caused major unrest at a time when the country was moving towards dismantling apartheid.
"There were four games," he recalled. "I was part of bringing that team out so I had to go to those matches. I don't want to go through that experience again.
"So I went to Kimberley and there were thousands of people marching to the ground on day one. The police stopped them. I got caught there. The guns were out. I got terrified that someone was going to get killed."
After seeking approval from a magistrate, Bacher helped organise a peaceful demonstration which took place the next day but deep dissatisfaction remained.
"It got ugly in Pietermaritzburg," he said. "There was a huge crowd there and the demonstrators said they wanted to see Mike Gatting and myself. I said 'fine, come inside the ground'.
"I called Mike and said 'come on, we need to face up to it' and we got sucked out of the ground into a massive crowd and put on a podium. I tell you what, I feared for Mike Gatting's life.
"The abuse was directed at him and directed at me but eventually it was over. Whatever you say about Mike Gatting - whether he should have come here or not, that's for other people to make the decision; boy, has he got guts because we went back into the changing room and he spoke to his players like nothing had happened."
Gatting was subsequently banned from playing for England for three years before returning to the international stage for the 1992-93 tour of India and Sri Lanka.
In the podcast, Bacher goes on to explain the role he played in helping reintegrate South Africa back into international cricket, the impact of the Charter for Transformation in 1988 and says the fall-out from the Hansie Cronje scandal "broke my heart".
Looking to the future, Bacher has concerns about the current state of South African cricket, in particular the lack of representation of black Africans, saying: "In Soweto, there is hardly a school that plays cricket today. The sports facilities in the black townships have hardly improved after 30 years of democracy.
"Find those kids with rhythm and co-ordination and give them a bursary and give them a chance. That's what you've got to do if you want to get the balance right but at the moment it is a serious problem and it's going to cause our cricket administrators a lot of upheaval from the politicians."
South Africa go into this week's fourth and final Test 2-1 down in the series after losing by an innings and 53 at Port Elizabeth.
Asked if he worries about the future of South African cricket, in particular the talent drain to other countries including England, Bacher replied: "Yes and no. Our schools are producing fantastic cricketers. That's the plus.
"The negative is the administration at the top. A good board - the best I ever served on was the World Cup board - has got to be a combination of people who have played cricket at the highest level, an accountant, a lawyer, an HR person, someone who has good inter-relations; you balance it out. Our board is not like that.
"You've got to get that right and that's why maybe I'm becoming a little bit more public now [in my views]. I feel like I can't sit back when cricket has given me so much.
"There is a movement to get a mixture of white and black at the top and let them run South Africa cricket properly - if you can do that with the schools at the nucleus, I think there's still a good future."
Live coverage of the fourth and final Test between South Africa and England continues on Sky Sports Cricket and across Sky's digital platforms.