Ali Bacher decodes SA greats, via Bradman

One of the influential cricket administrators of his time, Bacher had also led a South African XI to beat Bill Lawry’s Australia 4-0 in 1970/71.

A determined batsman and an outstanding fielder, Bacher’s greatest moments came as captain.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

Ali Bacher, who organised rebel tours to South Africa during days of apartheid, was among the most influential cricket administrators when his country returned to the international fold in the early 90s. He earned a reputation for resolving vexing issues.

Yet, something that is often forgotten while discussing Bacher is the fact that he led a South African ‘dream side’ that routed Bill Lawry’s formidable Australians 4-0 here in 1970; South Africa did not play Test cricket again for 22 years.

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A determined batsman and an outstanding fielder, Bacher’s greatest moments came as captain.

Talking to Sportstar here on Sunday, Bacher, now 75, remembered, “We were quietly confident. Had there been a fifth Test, we would have defeated Australia 5-0.”

That South African team had Graeme and Peter Pollock, Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow, some of the finest cricketers South Africa has seen. “Because of apartheid, we could not see more of them at the world stage,” said Bacher ruefully.

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Talking about Graeme Pollock, Bacher remembered a conversation with the legendary Don Bradman. “Meeting Don Bradman was one of my finest moments. I stayed with him in Adelaide during the 1992 World Cup and I asked him how good Graeme was. He replied, ‘Marginally better than Garry Sobers as a batsman.’ That’s how good he was. And his brother Peter Pollock could bowl very fast.”

Highlighting the attacking qualities of Barry Richards, Bacher said, “He represented South Australia for some time and when the side met West Australia at Perth, he was beaten by the first ball he faced from Dennis Lillee and ‘keeper Rod Marsh said, ‘We thought he could play.”

Bacher added, “And Barry responded to that comment by scoring more than 300 hundred in a day, hammering both Lillee and Graham McKenzie.”

Talking about Procter, Bacher said, “He had a whirlwind action but did not bowl off the wrong foot as many said. He was an explosive batsman and could bowl fast from both over and round the wicket and bowled off-spin too.”

Recollecting a game between his team Transvaal and Rhodesia, for whom Procter played, in Bulawayo, he said, “Suddenly, Procter bowled off-spin in the match and picked nine wickets.”

On Barlow, Bacher observed, “An aggressive batsman, a fine swing bowler and the best catcher at first slip I have ever seen. He was a very confident cricketer, gave us belief and that helped against Australia, who before that, had a psychological edge over us.”

Among the moves he remembered as captain against Australia was a shuffle in the batting order during the third Test in Johannesburg.

He said, “I changed Eddie Barlow, who batted No. 5 to opening, in the second innings. And Trevor Goddard, who opened, was pushed to No. 9. It worked. Barlow got a hundred!”