- Cricket and Society in South Africa, 1910–1971ed. by Bruce Murray, Richard Parry, and Jonty Winch
Bruce Murray, Richard Parry, and Jonty Winch’s compilation of this collection of essays is a long overdue addition to the historiography of the social development of South African society. It discusses and charts the sporting, cultural, and political history and evolution [End Page 95] of South African cricket between the formation of Union of South Africa in 1910 and the plunging of South African cricket into sporting isolation in 1971. This edited collection successfully locates sport at the core of political life in the fledging nation. It also highlights that, like wider South African society, South African cricket was not only split along the lines of race, gender, and religion, but there were also divides within those divides and, moreover, that it was a barometer of the nation’s political climate and its complex and changing relationship with the rest of the British Empire. One illustration of this is the book’s highlighting of the fact that “the whites only South African Cricket Association Springboks who played 172 Test Matches between 1989 and 1970 did not represent their country in a proper sense, but were one of seven national teams” (v).
Murray, Parry, and Winch argue that this fragmentation of the governance of South African cricket was “the product of the implementation of discriminatory socio-economic and political policies” and state that the aim of this collection is to shed light on what caused these divisions in South African cricket and what they term “the tragic waste of human potential and inefficient use of financial resources” that went with it. They claim that the answer can be found in trying to understand the changes in South African society that occurred during the period between 1910 and 1971, which is covered by the book (vi). This goal is successfully achieved through the arranging of a set of essays that range from the discussion of technical aspects of the administration of the sport by Dale Slater, who, in chapter 3, highlights the reticence of the South African Cricket Association to adopt turf cricket pitches during the formative period of the development of the sport in the country, through to discussion by Jonty Winch of the relationship between the cricketing communities of Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia and Zimbabwe) and South Africa (49–88, 137–61). To the layman, the inclusion of these chapters might seem a frivolous inclusion of the discussion of semi-related topics in order to give the book more bulk and heft. However, if one reads the complete volume, it becomes evident that they reinforce the core point that the conservative outlook of those governing South African has often hindered the development of the sport of cricket in the country. They, therefore, fit surprisingly well with the discussion of the topics expected to be found in a book that examines the social history of twentieth-century South Africa, such as race, identity, elitism, gender, religion, exclusion, and discrimination, to which most of the rest of this volume is dedicated. The pick of these is Patrick Faraday’s reflections on the famous Newlands “Walk-off” in chapter 13, which saw the cricketers of teams representing Transvaal and South Africa walk off the field at Cape Town after the first ball of a first-class fixture in protest at the South African government’s rigid implementation of its apartheid policy (347–66), an act that Faraday points out highlighted the moral bankruptcy of a system that expected players from marginalized communities to play a high-profile normal sport for a day and then then return to the persecuted existence that was their abnormal lives on the periphery of mainstream society not through any fault of their own but because of the apartheid system.
However, the primary strength of this collection of essays is the coherent way in which the reader is guided through the evolution of South African...