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MacGill adds name to limited list

April 22, 2004 12:29 IST

Stuart Charles Glyndwr MacGill added his name to a limited list on Wednesday by declining to play sport for moral reasons.

The Australia leg spinner has refused to take part in his country's tour of Zimbabwe starting in May in protest against the government of President Robert Mugabe.

"I have given this a lot of thought over a long period of time and personally I do not believe the situation in Zimbabwe is such that I can tour at this stage," said MacGill.

Teams and individual athletes have often gone on strike for more money. Rarely in a conservative environment have they defied the conventional wisdom that sport and politics are separate.

An obvious exception is Muhammad Ali, banned from fighting at the prime of his career because of his opposition to the Vietnam war. But Ali was a unique personality who happened to be world heavyweight champion when an unpopular Asian war and the black power movement were at their height.

Southern Africa has historically been an ethical sounding board.

In 1970, Ken Gray was a strong, silent and immensely effective All Black prop at the heart of a great New Zealand pack.

He was also a principled, intelligent man who created a minor stir by announcing he was unavailable for that year's tour of South Africa.


The immediate reaction was a lament for the loss of a key player. Later it emerged that Gray abhorred apartheid and had decided to retire with a minimum of fuss.

Four years later, Welshman John Taylor declared himself unavailable for identical reasons before the 1974

British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

In 1981, All Black captain Graham Mourie refused to play against the touring Springboks, a tour which resulted in virtual civil war. Three years later, Stuart Barnes declined to tour with England.

No prominent cricketer took a similar stance, although there were no official tours of South Africa between an Australian visit in 1969-70 and the end of the apartheid era in the early 1990s.

But one man, whose major cricketing achievement was to take the field briefly as 12th man for the English county Hampshire, did play a significant role in the anti-apartheid movement.

Policeman turned poet John Arlott toured South Africa as the official BBC commentator on the 1948-498 England tour.

He did not like what he saw and never returned. In 1970 he made it clear he would not commentate on the 1970 South Africa tour of England, which was eventually cancelled for security reasons.

Arlott also encouraged a mixed-race South African all rounder called Basil D'Oliveira to emigrate to England to win the opportunities he was denied in his native land.

D'Oliveria won selection for England in the abortive 1968 tour to South Africa, a visit cancelled when then South African Prime Minister John Vorster made it plain he would be unacceptable.

The late Arlott was passionate about wine and books, interests shared by MacGill who practises the most difficult of cricket's varied skills. Together they demonstrate that cricket, like all sports, does not end at the boundary.

John Mehaffey
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