In 1991, a South African student named Hussein Manack arrived in India as part of the first ever academic exchange program between these two countries. Faiek Davids is an Indian photographer who documented this period during which he became friends with Hussein and the other students on the trip. The images they captured together give insight into how global connections can change lives for both sides of a divide.
Before the first match of the historic 1991 visit, India captain Mohammad Azharuddin and South Africa captain Clive Rice shake hands.
Kagiso Rababa, Temba Bavuma, and Lungi Ndidi are just a few of the successful black South African cricketers whose names spring to mind these days.
South Africa’s first post-apartheid tour may not have taken place if it hadn’t been for two unknown black cricketers rescued from obscurity who had never bowled or faced a single ball in international cricket.
Hussein Manack and Faiek Davids were members of the first South African team to visit India, which took place 30 years ago this month, and their narrative is one of mystery and what might have been.
That’s because it took political intervention to guarantee that South Africa’s tour group for three one-day internationals in India wasn’t entirely white.
Dr Ali Bacher, then the chief executive of the newly formed United Cricket Board of South Africa, told Sport, “I received a phone call from the president of Indian cricket.” “‘It’s fantastic you’re coming, Ali, but an all-white squad will be a tremendous issue in India,’ he remarked. I told her to leave it with me. I’ll take care of it.”
Bacher sorted things out.
Manack recalls receiving a call one evening at his house outside Johannesburg in the days before cell phones.
“Dr Bacher asked if I would want to travel to India to get experience in a non-playing role,” Manack remembers.
Davids got the same offer in Cape Town: “I wasn’t expecting anything like this. I didn’t have a passport to begin with.”
Both players accepted the invitation, although they were perplexed as to why they were included.
“I spoke about it with my friends and family. It was supposed to be a historic trip for South Africa. However, there was a sense that it was really a window dressing exercise “Manack remembers.
Davids continues: “At the age of 28, I was startled to be designated as a developing player. It didn’t sit well with me.”
Hussein Manack, shown right, is still a pundit and coach in South African cricket.
The developing foursome also included two young white players: future South Africa captain Hansie Cronje and spinner Derek Crookes, who went on to play 32 one-day internationals.
The welcome the team got in Kolkata – or Calcutta as it was known at the time – exceeded all expectations.
“100,000 people lined the streets to greet us as we made our way from the airport to the hotel. It was incredible, “Bacher said.
Three one-day matches, as well as a meeting with Mother Theresa and a visit to the Taj Mahal, were included in the 10-day itinerary.
“The guys were quite kind and inviting. But I felt out of place, and I assumed that we [himself and Davids] were there as a showpiece for the Indian press “Manack recalls.
“Being knowing that you were never going to play was really tough,” Davids said, “but I thought I am here, and it was nice to be connected with the squad to try and be part of it in the future.”
Hussein Manack (back row, second from right) and Faiek Davids are shown before playing for a South African Cricket Board XI (bottom row, first from left)
For the first time in 21 years, the duo sat on the sidelines of South Africa’s first official international match.
“Meeting guys like Tendulkar and Sanjay Manjrekar was an extremely eye-opening experience,” Manack remarked. “I recall [Tendulkar] clearing the mid-wicket boundary when we arrived at Eden Gardens for the first match.”
“It was incredible to see him perform with such confidence in front of 100,000 people.”
In the years that followed, however, Manack and Davids received little worldwide attention. So, when they went home to an united domestic game, what happened?
“I played among some fantastic black cricketers who might have easily made any South African team,” Manack added. “They were, however, not given the credit they deserved. They remained in the shadows at all times.”
As a black player, Davids discovered that he had to work extra hard “”Prove yourself over and over again,” he says, adding, “It wasn’t what I expected.” The possibilities Hansie Cronje and Derek Crookes were given were far different from those I and Hussein were given, according to history. Those were difficult years.”
Many black athletes dropped out of the game as a result of their disenchantment.
Manack recounts that “after two years, many had just retired and ceased playing cricket.” “Suddenly, we weren’t seen to be good enough. Many players have said that we are wasting our time here. It’s a joke, of course.”
For Manack and Davids, and other players of their age, movement toward a multi-racial South African squad in the last 20 years came too late. Both guys are still in the sport now after brief first-class stints with Transvaal and Western Province, respectively.
Manack spent seven years as a national selector and is now a well-known pundit for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Davids, who was also a non-playing part of the 1992 World Cup squad, is currently coaching with his previous team in Cape Town.
And what about the India trip, which took place 30 years ago this month?
“I don’t have any regrets,” Davids stated. “My only regret is that I wish I could have performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people.”
The story of South Africa’s return to international cricket, From Segregation to Integration, is now accessible as a podcast.