The famous Lord’s cricket ground has hosted 130 Test matches, with the first held in 1884. During that period there have been 240 centuries scored with each hundred being recorded on the honours board for posterity. The first South African to score a century at Lord’s was Percy Sherwell, way back in 1907.
During the recent Lord’s Test there was a short documentary by Nasser Hussain on the topic that 10% of the centuries scored at Lord’s have been by South Africans not playing for South Africa. The first was by Tony Greig in 1974, and the last was the recent Test when Devon Conway made a double century on debut.
The discussion was why such a high percentage of the hundreds were scored by South Africans playing for other countries and why South Africa could not retain these world-class cricketers?
The answer lay in the political problems of South Africa, both historically and presently. Because of apartheid South Africa was banned from playing international cricket in 1970. Many talented cricketers like Greig, Allan Lamb and Robin Smith, who had British passports, moved to England to further their careers. These cricketers were all world-class players and contributed to England’s success in that era.
After democracy in 1994, Cricket South Africa (CSA) implemented the quota system. This made certain cricketers feel insecure and discriminated against. Once again there was a migration of South Africa players, not only to England but also New Zealand. Kevin Pietersen became one of England’s all-time greats, and Jonathan Trott enjoyed a successful fifty-Test match career.
New Zealand has also benefited from the political turmoil in South African cricket, with cricketers like Grant Elliott and Conway, to name a few, who have left our shores for a more secure, political free career. South African cricketers have played a major role in New Zealand becoming a top international team.
America is another emerging market for South African cricketers with their recruiting for the Major League and national coaching programmes. There are about fifteen domestic cricketers that have relocated to the USA for the same reasons as generations before them.
In the future there will be more and more South Africans playing for other national teams unless CSA improves the cricketing landscape and creates equal opportunity for all.