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Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Back from the wilderness
Garth Le Roux in action for Sussex
WSC offered Le Roux a step up from county cricket

Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket may have cut a broad swathe through the heart of the cricket establishment.

But it also created exciting new opportunities for a group of players barred at the time from competing in the international arena - South Africans.

Banished to international exile in 1970 as Apartheid splashed across into the sporting world, the closest South Africa's cricketers could get to the highest level of the game was in English county cricket.

I was so desperate to play international cricket that I would have played for nothing

Kepler Wessells
It was from there that Packer culled his South African 'rebels' - Mike Procter, Barry Richards, Clive Rice, Kepler Wessels, Eddie Barlow and Garth Le Roux.

For Le Roux in particular, a quickie with fire in his lungs, it was an invitation he never even contemplated rejecting.

"I was 22 years old and South Africa was right in the middle of isolation - for me not to go would have been ludicrous," Le Roux says.

"They just said to me come and bowl and come and bowl against some of the best in the world. I jumped at it.

"Transvaal tried to persuade me to stay by offering me a big contract but I told them they had to be mad, I was going to play proper cricket, not the Currie Cup.

"I had not even the remotest hope that South Africa might be readmitted to the international scene at that stage."

Dual national

Playing with Le Roux at Sussex at the time was left-handed opening batsman Kepler Wessels who, although a year younger, was already considering the possibility of settling in Australia.

The offer of a contract from Packer could not have come at a better time for Wessels and he jumped at the chance.

Kepler Wessels
A 21-year-old Wessels was happy to represent Australia
"I had given up on South Africa being readmitted," he says now.

"I was only 21 and desperate to play international cricket and money was the last thing on my mind but it was nice to be paid well to do something I enjoyed.

"I was so desperate to play international cricket that I probably would have played for nothing."

Wessels would go on to play for Australia before returning to South Africa to captain his native land as they finally emerged from isolation to play Test cricket once again 1992.

He remembers the World Series as possibly the best cricket of his career.

"The cricket lived up to all my expectations and more so.

"The standard was incredibly high and the cricket was probably the best that I've ever been involved in.

"It was very enjoyable off the field as well - it was a fantastic experience and I think everyone was quite sorry when it came to an end."

'South Africanness'

But as good as the experience was, it was one that the greatest South African cricketer of them all, Graeme Pollock, would miss out on.

Pollock was offered a three-year contract and spent a month in Australia but never played, blocked along with Denys Hobson over objections to their 'South Africanness' by Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Graeme Pollock
Pollock was excluded from WSC as he had no county experience
County players were considered 'professional cricketers' and acceptable because they played alongside black players in England.

Pollock, who was paid out his contract in full, remains philosophical at missing out on further international competition.

"I was frustrated but we'd had tours cancelled since 1970 and this was now seven or eight years down the line, so I think you got used to it," he says.

"But if you look at it, the people opposed to apartheid South Africa got it right by targeting South African sport - it did help bring about change.

"I've said all along that while I missed out on all those years, in the long term I'm happy that South Africa is now back in international sport. That was the important thing."

While that is not something for which Packer can claim responsibility, there are several South Africans still grateful for the chance he gave them to test themselves against the best.

BBC Sport Online marks the 25th anniversary of the Kerry Packer saga

How it began

Cricket visionary

England divided

Sporting circus

Looking back

Family connection




See also:

28 Nov 01 | Australia v South Africa
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