Holding on South Africa Rebel Tours: I have forgiven but will not forget

Early in his Test career, in 1976, Holding broke the record for best bowling figures in a Test match by a West Indies bowler, 14 wickets for 149 runs.
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By Neto Baptiste

Former West Indies and Jamaica fast bowler, Michael Holding, said he has forgiven his former teammates who opted to play in the South African rebel tours between 1982 and 1990, but added he will never agree with their decision.

Speaking recently on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Holding said his views on the decision by some of his former teammates remain the same as they had been from day one, but added that as time passed, he has managed to move.

“I would never condone it; I would never ever think they did the right thing,” he said. “At the time when it happened I was very bitter, I made some very harsh remarks that perhaps people may have thought that I went a little too far with some of my remarks, but as time goes on, as water flows under the bridge you have to kind of let go at certain times. And so, if I see any of those guys, I don’t really greet them with any vexation or despise them or anything like that, because that would be wrong to go through life constantly thinking that way.” 

Holding, who twice refused offers to tour South Africa during apartheid, said he has even managed to rebuild some friendships.

“On many occasion, Colin Croft has written to me, has emailed me, has called me, talking to me about certain things in cricket, and has asked me to do certain things and I have done it. And if anybody like that calls me and asks me to do anything for them, I will do it. As I said, there is no way I am going to ever say they did the right thing, and given that opportunity again in terms of that offer to go down there, I still will never ever go,” he said. 

A number of West Indies players at the time, to include Colin Croft and Sylvester Clarke, both fast bowlers from the very top tier, wicketkeeper David Murray, Alvin Kallicharran, and all-rounders Collis King, Richard Austin, Bernard Julien, and Franklyn Stephenson, all took part in the rebel tours that were orchestrated by former South African captain, Ali Bacher.

Holding said he and Bacher are friends and he never blamed the former player for wanting to keep cricket alive in South Africa.

“Ali Bacher, being a former captain of South Africa, who wanted to see cricket survive in South Africa, thought this was the way he had to keep cricket alive, by getting teams to come down there and play in South Africa against the South African team. He knew they couldn’t go anywhere and that if he couldn’t do that, cricket would die in South Africa,” he said.

“I can’t blame him, as a former cricket and a former captain of South Africa, to try to keep cricket alive. It is up to you to say yes or no. You can’t blame a man for coming to you and trying to do something for himself. It is up to you to evaluate for yourself that, okay, this is good for him; it is good for them, but is it good for me? Is it good for other people? And that is what you have got to do as an individual,” he added.

The South African rebel tours were a series of seven cricket tours staged between 1982 and 1990. They were known as the rebel tours because the international cricketing bodies banned South Africa from competitive international cricket throughout this period because of apartheid. As such, the tours were organised and conducted in spite of the express disapproval of national cricket boards and governments, the International Cricket Conference and international organisations, such as the United Nations.

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