Every time I have run a Google news search for South Africa in the last few weeks, almost the entire first page has been full of cricket news. Maybe it is because Google knows that I am Indian (Well Google does know way too much!). But I decided anyway to write a blog post about cricket in South Africa, especially for my American friends.
The game of cricket dates back to the 16th century and international matches of cricket have been played since 1844. The game is played professionally in most of the Commonwealth Nations and it is the second most popular sport in South Africa, next only to (non-American) Football or Soccer. South Africa is also one of the only ten countries in the world that is sanctioned by the International Cricket Council to play Test Cricket. Test Cricket is considered to be the highest form of this game, a complete examination of playing ability as well as endurance because test cricket matches between two opposing teams having 11 players each can last up to 5 days.
Incidentally, the highest crisis to hit international cricket was the indefinite suspension of South Africa from the International Cricket Council in 1971 due to apartheid. Ironically, this was also the time at which the South African cricket team was at its strongest level in the world. It was not until 1991 that South Africa was welcomed back into the world of international cricket. Affirmative action in the form of racial quotas has not even escaped the South African national cricket team. A policy was introduced in 1998 requiring the team to have four players of color but it was rescinded in 2007. The South African national cricket team got its first non-white captain in 2006.
It is very fascinating to see how sports have a way of uniting people of any nation. Perhaps this is why it was such a strong national statement when Nelson Mandela walked into the rugby field during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.