Interview with Dr Ali Bacher

Part Two: 21 January 1997

Dr Ali Bacher Dr Ali Bacher played twelve Tests for South Africa, and was captain against Australia in 1970. He is now Managing Director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. Following his brief chat on IRC on 17 January 1997 he agreed to a more in-depth interview on the irc channel #cricket on 21 January 1997. The interview was conducted at Dr Bacher's home in Johannesburg. Questions were accepted live, followed by questions previously submitted via email. Once again, CricInfo's Ros Brodie assisted Dr Bacher at the keyboards.

WGG: Dr Ali- you played Test cricket with Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards, two of the best batsman I've ever seen. Can you tell us how you think they compare with others who had a more extensive international career?

Dr Bacher: They were the two best batsmen I ever played with or against. When I met Sir Donald Bradman in Australia in 1992, he said of Barry Richards that he was as good as Sir Leonard Hutton and Sir Jack Hobbs, and that Graeme Pollock was the best lefthand batsman of all time, marginally better than even Sir Garfield Sobers. He also said, however, that Sobers was the best allrounder of alltime.

BokFan: I wanted to know how he felt about the rumours of an International Players Union being formed to try and curb the number of ODI's being played. Gary Kirsten alluded to this in his Argus column and mentioned that Pakistan are playing 47 odi's this year! Do you think that there's far too much cricket, and if so would you try and protect the players, from too much cricket and consequent shortening of careers?

Dr Bacher: Too much cricket is being played, particularly the one-day game. Should you have a players' union or not, the key is really good communication between players and administration.

Waughzone: There has been much debate here in Australia in the last few weeks regarding crowd control methods at ODIs where over-zealous action and mis-targeting of "suspect spectators" by ground authorities have failed to prevent pitch invasions and hooliganism. One letter in today's Sydney Morning Herald (21 Jan) favoured "South African" crowd control methods where "Alsatians" are used against offenders as a deterrent. What methods do you think are appropriate in striking a balance between preventing interruption of matches and ensuring the enjoyment of those who attend one day games?

Dr Bacher: When we resumed international cricket in the early part of this decade I strongly advocated that the local cricket authorities should not use dogs to prevent spectators running onto the field I didn't want the new South Arica to look like a police state. It never worked, and today most of our grounds use dogs to prevent pitch invasion by spectators.

Windian: From a WI fan, how can cricket have a test champion if teams like SA and WI meet so very rarely, or if Pakistan and WI series are so very short in duration. Isn't it time for 5 test series between the best, ie seeded test teams to occur on a shorter interval? and

Dr Bacher: we have just finished a three-test series agianst India and a record 200 000 people came to watch these two teams. I believe that there is an urgent and a very necessary need for the world of cricket to come up with a formula or championship that can determine who are the leaders in Test cricket worldwide. I don't have the answer, but I am confident that this year we will find a solution to this need.

kamalp: who do you think is the best batsman today?

Dr Bacher: the two best players in world cricket today are Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. I have a feeling that Sachin will break every existing Test batting record.

SquareCut: Well, what do you think of the current South African team?

Dr Bacher: It is a good team. It is a very committed and determined team. They have not reached their peak yet, which I think will occur within the next 12-18 months.

BokFan: Dr do you feel about Adam carrying on the good family name?

Dr Bacher: He's done very nicely, and we're very proud of him.

Rick Eyre: You captained the South African side in their 4-0 demolition of Australia in 1970. That Australian side is remembered as being a rather weak one. Is that a fair assessment?

Dr Bacher: On paper it was a strong team; Ian Chappell, Graham McKenzie, Bill Lawry, Doug Walters, Johnny Gleason, just to name a few. They came up against a very strong Test team, probably the strongest that SA has ever fielded. asks: "Dr.Bacher why are there very few blacks on S.A team?"

And along the same lines, (Kashif Hydari) asks: "How long do you think it will take, before the blacks in South Africa will be an integral part of the South African cricket team.?"

Dr Bacher: Our primary objective in SA cricket is to ensure that ultimately our SA team on merit has representation from all the different peoples of our country. We're not there yet, but we will get there. I would predict that this vision will become a reality in the early part of the next decade. (Richard Davies) asks: "Is the South African Cricket Board using Paul Adams as a means to get cricket out to the black population? SA rugby seems to have crashed after the success in World Cup and I wonder if the Cricket Board is worried about that happening?"

Dr Bacher: Paul Adams is a sensational bowler and cricketer. He's played in 6 Tests and has close to 30 Test wickets already. Those figures indicate what a quality cricketer he is. (Rajiv Rambhia) asks: "Why is it that the South African Team loses the crucial matches?"

And along the same lines, (Jay Subramanyam) asks: "I am of the firm opinion that you have an excellent cricket team capable of performing well in both forms of the game. However, I still believe that it fails to win the 'crunch' games and quite often tends to fall off at crucial points of a one day tournament or a test series. In spite of obvious potential and temperament why do you think your team fails to carry on with its winning form right upto the end to win major cricket tournaments?"

Dr Bacher: They have won major tournaments. They won the Sharjah Cup last April, they won the Kenyan quadrangular tournament last October; in the 94/95 season they beat Pakistan in SA to win the quadrangular one-day tournament - you can't win every one-day international match. (Rob) asks: "What are the chances of the number of test countries growing by the World Cup in 2003, and who do you see, other than Kenya, as the most likely countries to break through? are any other African countries potentially of test playing calibre?"

Dr Bacher: I'm hopeful that by the year 2003, through the strategy that will be soon released by the ICC Development Committee, we can have 16 countries competing on equal terms at the 2003 World Cup, and that we have between 9-12 countries playing Test cricket at that time. I have just returned from Bangladesh and I saw immense potential in that particular country.

WGG: I have a Q there just about that! (Khairul Alam) asks: "Is it true that you have mentioned Bangladesh would be the next test playing country? How soon would that be? Could you please mention the steps Bangladesh has to follow to be a test playing country."

Dr Bacher: Most likely. I would think within 5 years. Our Development Committee report, to be released in June, will outline the strategy.

Anton van Velden ( writes: "I am a Civil Engineer by profession, and an associate with the firm Ninham Shand (Pty) Ltd. We are in the process of applying for funds for the provision of basic sport facilities in the smaller Free State towns. Please comment on the UCB's policy related to the provision of funds for the construction of cricket facilities for the underpriviledged communities."

Dr Bacher: Our funding for the facilities have come through two avenues. One is donations, contributions from companies and individuals; for example, Johann Rupert gave us three quarters of a million Rand for a sports complex in Zwide. Secondly, 20% of gate monies taken in all international matches played in SA go to a central development fund from wich we build sports facilities in the disadvantaged areas. The man in the street, therefore, is contributing to cricket's "RDP" (Reconstruction and Development Programme). (Arvind Agarwal) asks: "Dr. Bacher, I have a high respect for RSA team for their sportsmanship and quality of cricket. But it was very bad and shocking to see few RSA players adopting techniques like sledging. What u have to say about it specially sledging? It has been never seen before in any RSA cricketer before."

Dr Bacher: I am not aware of any SA player sledging, although I will concede that they play it pretty tough out there! (VIJAY) asks: "How do you rate the Indian side touring S.Africa? Is the Indian team too weak to face its opponents or the S.African team is so strong that it can crash any opposition? "

Dr Bacher: This Indian team is a young team, well-balanced, and with a lot of potential. I think that if their two fast bowlers do not get injured, they could in the next couple of years become one of the top teams in world cricket.

Martin Schneider ( asks: "Does the UCB have any influence over the provinces to get their names changed to come in line with our new provinces in SA? For example, Transvaal should change to Southern Gauteng, Western Province to Western Cape, etc

Dr Bacher: We can't force the provinces, nor do we wish to, on this issue. But from a personal point of view, I believe that the provinces should change their names in kerping with the new South Africa. I am aware of the fact that the Northern Transvaal cricket union will be changing its name shortly.

vishal: Sunil Gavaskar commented yesterday that the umpires unnecesarily delayed the game for about 45 minutes. Comments?

Dr Bacher: I have received a phone call 5 minutes ago from one of the senior members of my Board who expressed the same viewpoint. No further comment :-)

Akshay Damle ( asks: "Who do you think is the match-winner for south africa and why? Also, who is the most dangerous player in the Indian Team?"

and (Greg Chapman) asks: "There is going to be 3 test matches coming up next month between Australia and South Africa. What players in the South African squad does Australia really got to watch out for?"

Dr Bacher: Our match winner is Allan Donald. In my opinion he is at the peak of his career, and is the number one fast bowler in the world today. The most dangerous player in the Indian team is Srinath, who has improved considerably since he came here last, and is one of the best fast bowlers in the world today. (Rick Eyre) asks: "The UCBSA announced a few months ago that 3+ day matches played under the auspices of the SACBOC were to be accorded first-class status retrospectively. How is this decision justified? How would the SACBOC matches compare on merit to the Currie Cup games of the same era?"

Dr Bacher: Since the 50's, three-day matches between the B-teams of the provinces have been regarded as first-class; for exampe last year when Boland B played Border B in a 3-day game, it was a first-class match. We have no problem, therefore, with awarding first-class status to past three-day SACBOC games.

Steven Deutsch ( asks: "Dr.Bacher, You are recognized as the main proponent behind making cricket multi-racial even in the darkest years of apartheid, using your experience in taking cricket to those unfamiliar with the game, how would you go about making cricket a more "international" game?"

Dr Bacher: David Richards, the CEO of the ICC, a year ago in his annual report indicated that cricket had a major problem, that it was not a global sport. He motivated the formation of an international Development Committee, of which I am the Chairman. His assessment was absolutely right. Only in about 7 or 8 countries is the game high profile with support from the majority of its peoples. As indicated earlier, our Development Committee is formulating a strategy, which will be made public in June, to advance the game within the associate and affiliate members

Message from (michael bacher) "just a quick note, to send regards from all the Bachers in Canada."

Dr Bacher: Michael: Adam has played really well and you would be really proud of him!!

Steven Deutsch ( asks: "Dr. Bacher, One day cricket in its various forms (50 overs, Hong Kong sixes, super eights etc) is growing at an increasing rate. Whilst I understand its importance financially to the game, is there a risk that it will eventually replace test cricket as the main event?"

Dr Bacher: In advancing the game globally we recognise that different geographical areas and different customs and cultures will only take to certain cricketing products. Asia, for example, shows keen interest in 8-a-side cricket, and will never support Test match cricket; similarly the USA, and we want to take cricket to that area, will have to be offered a cricket product that lasts a short period of time. (Russell Shaw) asks: "Dr Bacher, South Africa are currently among the top three test teams in the world, and our dominance in the shortened game is unquestioned. What will the MD of the UCBSA be hoping to achieve in 1997? Furthermore, who do you personally see as the most likely successor to keeper Richardson at this stage?"

Dr Bacher: I think 1997 will be important in relation to our performances against Australia. It's dificult to say who will be Richardson's successor. I would think there are 4 candidates at this point in time: Nicky Pothas (Transvaal), Mark Boucher (Border), Paul Kirsten (Western Province) and Grant Morgan (Eastern Province). (Fazal Shere) asks: "Is Colin Bland involved in any manner in raising the current South African fielding to its high level?"

Dr Bacher: No. He coaches in the Eastern Province and has proved to be an outstanding batting coach.

Scotters: Does SA have plans to stage an annual competition like Australia's World Series

Dr Bacher: It is risky having annual triangular one-day tournaments in your country for the simple reason that you can't guarantee that your own team will be in the final!

kamalp: many people are not happy with the standard of umpiring especially Azhars decision was glaringly not lbw- any comments on umpiring and action being taken?

Dr Bacher: The players deserve to have the best umpires. We in SA are of the opinion that the International panel of 20 is too big, and that only the very best should be on the panel. They should be fulltime and paid well. Secondly, it's unfortunate that the advent of modern technology, for example, slow motion replays has put huge pressures on the umpires who are not aided by these innovations.

SquareCut: Whom do you think is the world's best cricketer?

Dr Bacher: Shane Warne prior to his operation was certainly in my opinion the cricketer who was having the most profound impact on world cricket.

sonzy: Well I want to know what do you feed Donald so that we can feed the same to Srinath

Dr Bacher: Donald is a superb athlete; he has rhythm, co-ordination, and I think he'll prove to be the best fast bowler that SA has ever had.

WGG: Most of the cricketing world now knows of Paul Adams as a product of the development programme. Are there many other up and coming young players?

Dr Bacher: It's the bigest certainty of my life that cricketers from the townships on merit will ultimately play for SA.

BokFan: what is your impression of CricInfo and IRC and has David persuaded you yet that it's the best thing sice sliced bread? (David = Dr B's son)

Dr Bacher: It's mind-boggling!

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Date-stamped : 28 Feb1999 - 11:25