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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 February, 2003, 11:50 GMT

Rebel hell for Gooch
Rebel Hell is on BBC Radio Four (92.4 - 94.6FM and 198LW) at 2000GMT on Saturday 8 February.

Graham Gooch
Gooch has no regrets over the rebel tour

Geoffrey Boycott may have been the key figure in organising a rebel England tour to South Africa in 1982 but it was Graham Gooch who captained the team.

And it was the Essex batsman who was to be vilified by much of the English public, a Daily Mirror headline describing the team as "Gooch's Dirty Dozen".

The South African organiser of the tour, World Cup director Ali Bacher, has since admitted he would think twice before doing so again.

But Gooch claims to have no regrets.

The tour was the first to the Republic in 14 years, and created controversy at home.

Labour MP Gerald Kaufmann characterised the opposition, claiming that the 13-man party were "selling themselves for blood-covered Krugerrands".

South Africa's refusal to admit black England batsman Basil D'Oliveira because of their Apartheid laws had seen that tour cancelled, and an eventual isolation of that country from international sport.

Gooch, though, still claims today that he has no regrets over the trip, despite having seen his Test career interrupted by a three-year ban on his return.

Cricket, was at the forefront in bringing down the barriers and helping change things
Graham Gooch

His argument has become familiar again in the last few months as the rights and wrongs of England playing a World Cup fixture in Zimbabwe.

"Other people could go to South Africa as solicitors, plumbers or accountants," he said.

"I'm sure the government was trading with South Africa so it was a bit hypocritical to put the onus onto cricket.

"We were an easy target to make an issue out of."

South Africa claimed that their game was dying because of its isolation from the world game.

While the team that took on the England XI in three Tests, winning one and drawing the remaining matches, was all-white.

Concessions had been made at first-class level, with coloured players admitted to provincial sides, but the majority of the population had still yet to have the opportunity to play cricket.

"We were playing multi-racial cricket in South Africa," argued all-rounder Mike Procter, who captained the home side.

GA Gooch (capt)
DL Amiss
G Boycott
M Hendrick
G Humpage
APE Knott (wkt)
W Larkins
JK Lever
CM Old
LB Taylor
DL Underwood
P Willey
RA Woolmer

"We knew the laws of the land and we couldn't change them but we were trying to do everything we could to show the government what we thought was right."

Rebel tours by Australian, West Indian and Sri Lankan sides followed, but Procter believes the second English tour, captained by Mike Gatting in 1990, was the most important.

Even though it was aborted after demonstrations at each of the matches, Procter claimed, it was instrumental in uniting the organisers of South African cricket.

Gooch, who began his involvement with South Africa in 1975, when he turned out for the Cape Town club that was the first to admit a coloured player to its first grade side, agrees.

"Sport, and cricket, was at the forefront in bringing down the barriers and helping change things," he said.

Gooch was not handed the captaincy until the team arrived in South Africa at the beginning of March.

"The team were not over-keen on Geoffrey Boycott doing it," he recalled.

"They looked at me and said, 'What about it?'

"I didn't have much experience of captaincy and perhaps a bit naively I said 'OK'."

After an Ashes series victory at home that included the legendary Headingley Test win, Boycott's plans began to take shape.

He coined the code of a chess match to keep the secret while the team were on tour in India.

A call for "castles and knights to meet in the bishop's room" was an invitation for a group including many on the verge of the end of their Test careers to discuss a proposition worth around 50,000 each.

At a time when the average England player earned a fraction of that amount - on offer for a month's work - in the course of a year, it is no surprise that they were described a mercenaries.

However, Desmond Tutu, then Anglican archbishop of Johannesburg, is in no doubt of how the tour will go down in the history books.

"It is not a glorious chapter in their history," he said.

"They ought not to tell their children that they came."

Links to more World Cup stories


Botham 'made u-turn on rebel cash'
22 Feb 03 |  World Cup
'Far bigger than cricket'
24 May 02 |  Cricket


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