South Africa’s superstars of ’76

Great article by Mark Nicholas about how a 1976 South African cricket team might have looked. Would it have been better than their 1970 team, already a strong contender for Greatest Of All Time? Imagine this ’76 team playing a Lillian Thomson Australia, or (we can pretend there was no apartheid in this sporting fantasy) a Roberts/Holding West Indies… wow.

I didn’t know that much about Van der Bijl, but someone was talking about him on TMS the other day, and said he was basically “Joel Garner plus outswing”. And here’s a fantastic description of how good Pollock was, from the Nicholas article:

In 1983, I watched the rebel West Indians play South Africa in a one-day game in Port Elizabeth. Richards made a hundred but Graeme Pollock stole the headlines with a vignette of startling bravura. Hit in the head by Sylvester Clarke, he returned to the wicket an hour or so later, well stitched above the eyebrow, to face the remaining five balls of another Clarke over. Needless to say, Clarke went at him hard. Pollock hit all five balls for four or six. If Sir Garry Sobers or Brian Lara is not the greatest left-hander of all time, Pollock is.

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South Africa’s superstars of ’76
CricInfo
by Mark Nicholas
August 23, 2012
If you think the world’s current No. 1 side takes some beating, take a look at their compatriots from 35 years ago

Watching Graeme Smith’s fine South African side has taken me back to Newlands in 1977, when a group of English schoolboys were taken to see the New Year Currie Cup match between Western Province and Transvaal. The cricket was unflinching and the thrill of seeing such fantastic cricketers up close and in a place of such beauty has lived with me to this day.

The seventies were a golden age. Australia gaves us Lillee and Thomson, Marsh and the Chappells. India had three spinners who captured hearts, and a little opening batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, who resisted the most ferocious bowlers on behalf of hundreds of millions of fanatics who accorded him divine status. There is not much left to say about West Indies, a team that began the decade with Sobers and Kanhai and finished it with Richards, Greenidge, Kallicharran and four extraordinary fast bowlers firing as one. Pakistan had their greatest cricketer, Imran Khan, roaring for his people alongside Majid Khan and Zaheer Abbas. Javed Miandad knocked on the door of the seventies too, an inimitable figure who knew no defeat. Tony Greig led England on a famously successful tour to India, and Mike Brearley won back the Ashes. Ian Botham arrived as Greig left – two allrounders who carried the team with courage and flair – and David Gower began his charming tale.

But the South Africans were in isolation. Apartheid broke hearts in ways that can never be fully understood. If Basil D’Oliveira were still with us, he could explain better than I. The white man’s game still managed to forge exceptional cricketers from the sporting culture in which they lived. Club cricket thrived in a competitive environment, with eskies of cold beer and camaraderie at its weekend conclusion. The Currie Cup was played with the ferocity of Test cricket, because that is what it was, South Africa’s ultimate test of cricket.

Some of the best players – Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock, Eddie Barlow and Hylton Ackerman, Mike Procter and Peter Pollock – made appearances in World XIs who toured in place of South Africa. Their deeds caught the eye and continued to remind sceptics of the rare talent denied a global stage. Genius might not be the right word when applied to sport but let us say it is for a moment and suggest that South African cricket had its share.

The 1969-70 side that beat Australia 4-0 has become the stuff of legend but by the mid-seventies, say the season of 1976-77, South Africa would have been even better. Better than anyone. The years in isolation pushed the standard of first class cricket off the chart, producing cricketers who vied for top dog with one another as if they were playing for opposing nations, not provinces. Western Province against Transvaal was one such match – no quarter given, none asked. New South Wales and Victoria used to go at each on Boxing Day in a contest that might have matched it. And Barbados against Jamaica had a frisson given to few other Caribbean face-offs. But there was something raw and needy about the Currie Cup. It was a statement to the world and a parade ground for exposure elsewhere.

article continues… – Nicholas’ proposed XI is below:

1. Barry Richards
2. Eddie Barlow
3. Peter Kirsten
4. Graeme Pollock
5. Allan Lamb
6. Lee Irvine
7. Clive Rice
8. Mike Procter
9. Garth le Roux
10. Vintcent Van der Bijl
11. Denys Hobson

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