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Thought for the weekend

Allen Sleith



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Bishops lead a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration by 2,000 people marching from Twickenham station to the rugby ground, before the start of the England v South Africa match (PA)

Bishops lead a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration by 2,000 people marching from Twickenham station to the rugby ground, before the start of the England v South Africa match (PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Bishops lead a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration by 2,000 people marching from Twickenham station to the rugby ground, before the start of the England v South Africa match (PA)

Christmas is well past, but the present of a book from my brother-in-law still sits atop my desk. Not all presents are well chosen, but this one, a biography of my favourite batsman, Barry Richards from South Africa, certainly was.

He was a superb player with exquisite technique and a great career, as far as it went.

However, the rub for Richards is that he was unfortunate enough to break onto the international stage just before his country was banished from the top echelons due to the Apartheid regime, even though he and other teammates abhorred that racist policy.

The book title says it well, Sundial in the Shade - The Story of Barry Richards: The Genius Lost to Test Cricket. It was written by Andrew Murtagh, a friend and teammate from Hampshire.

Richards was the young golden boy, the rising star in a South African side of rare talent, making his debut against a strong Australian side who were comprehensively beaten.

However, those four Test matches were all that Richards managed.

The ban kicked in and he had to ply his trade, wonderfully well, it must be said, at the good but less illustrious level of first-class cricket in his homeland, England and Australia.

The frustration to him and cricket fans around the world was immense, and the light of ambition did dim somewhat for him over the following years.

However, the Kerry Packer World Series, a rival format to Test Cricket during the late 1970s, gave him one last chance to show his talents against the best players in the world and, though a bit older, he still excelled.

It was Benjamin Franklin who wrote: "Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?"

Barry Richards was such a sundial, poignantly put in the shade by political realities beyond his control, even as he acknowledged that his black brothers and sisters in his country suffered far worse than he.

And how many others, one ponders, are denied the full expression of their gifts by powers beyond their control or decisions that thwart their talents?

Not least in the Church, worst of all there. In fact, one wonders how much light has been put in the shade, its radiance stymied by dim or dark policies.

Lamentable.

Allen Sleith, Hillsborough Presbyterian Church

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