Home > Features > Moments in history >

Robin Jackman’s South African connections lead to cancellation of a Test between England and West Indies

When Robin Jackman’s South African connections led to the cancellation of a Test between England and West Indies

Robin Jackman was denied permission by the Guyana government from playing in a Test for England, which was to be later called off © Getty Images

February 28, 1981.The Test match to be played between West Indies and England at Georgetown, Guyana, was cancelled because the visiting team had been reinforced by the arrival of Robin Jackman, a bowler with South African connections. Arunabha Sengupta recalls one of the many apartheid related controversies to take place in cricket.

The call up

Named in the English squad for the Centenary Test against Australia in August 1980, 35-year-old Robin Jackman had been over the moon. His long-cherished, rosy and increasingly impossible looking dream was ultimately crystallising into reality. The Surrey medium pacer with the big, big heart had been the most successful wicket-taker in the county championship that season, and fully deserved the cap. And when he reported to the team hotel on the eve of the Test, the receptionist brought him crashing down to earth with the greeting, “Ah, yes, Mr. Jackman. Now you’re only booked for two nights, aren’t you?” The disappointed bowler immediately knew that he had been appointed as a standby.

Eccentric commentator Alan Gibson had christened him Shoreditch Sparrow, although he did not have any obvious connection with Shoreditch. Jackman had little ability but toiled his way to wickets.

He did not find a place in the side led by Ian Botham that flew to the West Indies that winter. Perhaps the selectors considered him over the hill. After all, he had turned out for Surrey alongside Ken Barrington, the manager of the team.

Jackman had decided to make a living out of cricket in 1968. And hence, when cricket was over for the summer in England, he followed the sun down south to Cape Town, where he had a coaching job and turned out in Currie Cup matches. Down the years, he married a South African girl and every English winter was spent in the diamond country.

It would have been the regular South African summer again had vice-captain Bob Willis not twisted his knee early in the tour. Jackman was called up as replacement.

He arrived in Georgetown, Guyana, with England slightly demoralised after a heavy defeat in the first Test at Port-of-Spain. However, Jackman himself was in excellent spirits. On the evening of his arrival, he proved to be the life and soul of the party thrown by Joe Solomon, chairman of the Guyana Cricket Board, and Roy Fredericks, Minister of Youth and Sports. According to Frank Keating in Another Bloody Day in Paradise, when suggested that he was in for a roasting from the blades of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, Jackman responded saying, “What the blazes do you know? Nothing, nothing could ever stop me going anywhere or giving up anything for a chance to play for England.”

However, something did.

The cancellation

On the eve of the One-Day-International (ODI) in Berbice, a broadcast from Jamaica alerted the Guyanese Government about Jackman’s ties to South Africa. Rumours flew about during the night. After all, Guyana had been severely anti-apartheid for ages. They had banned the great Garry Sobers and even their own favourite son Rohan Kanhai from playing in South Africa. On the other hand, Clive Lloyd regularly faced Clive Rice, and Viv Richards squared up to Vince van der Bijlin the English county season. No one knew what reaction would transpire.

Jackman himself, up early due to the unadjusted body clock, displayed little concern. He lurked among newsmen, ostensibly asking the press photographers how to use his Instamatic camera, doing an excellent job of hiding any misgiving. He was the nephew of well-known British character actor Patrick Cargill and had once considered training for a career on the stage. His face betrayed no emotion.

But administrative manager Alan Smith was not very sure. The local 7 am radio news had categorically stated that Jackman was not welcome in the country. A potential Basil D’Oliveira situation was on hand.

The teams flew to Berbice for the ODI. However, Smith and a large contingent of press men stayed back to pay a visit to the British High Commissioner. The administrative manager carried a photocopy of the Gleneagles Agreement, which stated forbidding conditions — all laced in diplomatic ambiguity: “The Commonwealth heads of the state have accepted it as the urgent duty of each of their governments vigorously to combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for and by taking every practical step to discourage contact or competition between their nationals and sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin.”

Few knew how to interpret this with regard to the Jackman case.

Alec Bedser, chairman of the England selection committee, was asked live on British television about Gleneagles. He had responded, “Well, I dunno, all I know is there’s a nice golf course there.”

Neither did Phillip Mallet, the High Commissioner, have any idea what the Guyanese Government would decide. He just expressed his regret when news flew in that at Berbice, England were 37 for three: “Oh dear, that means [Geoff] Boycott is out.”

Jackman was not playing in the ODI and the West Indies won by six wickets. The teams returned to the hotel, with the medium pacer wondering what was in store for him.

Soon, a man in a stiff uniform arrived at the hotel, asking, “Which is Mr Jackson’s room?” The notice he served to the Surrey bowler read:

“REVOCATION OF PERMIT
Under
Section 21 (4B) of Immigration Act
(Cap: 14.02)
Take Notice that on the direction of the President the permit granted to you on the 23rdFeb 1981 to enter and remain in Guyana for a period of two weeks is hereby revoked with immediate effect.
(Signed) J. Thorne, Deputy Supt, Immigration”

The Georgetown Test was called off. Strangely, a heated argument that followed among the journalists accompanying the team regarding whether Wisden should label the Test as ‘abandoned’ or ‘cancelled’. However, there was a more than serious shadow of doubt about the rest of the tour as well.

Thankfully, the Barbadian Government did not follow the same policy and allowed cricket to be played. Jackman at long last donned the English sweater. He bowled well to take four for 68 against Barbados and made his international debut in the third Test at Bridgetown.

England were trounced by a huge margin of 298 runs with Viv Richards scoring a majestic 182 in the second innings. But, Jackman managed to impress with figures of three for 65 and two for 76.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

India tour of England 2014

Jul 27, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Southampton

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 6, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Galle

India tour of England 2014

Aug 7, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Manchester

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 9, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Harare

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 14, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

More

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 24, 2014  at Bulawayo

Afghanistan won by 100 runs

South Africa tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Jul 24, 2014  at Colombo

Match drawn

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 22, 2014  at Bulawayo

Afghanistan won by 2 wkts

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 20, 2014  at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe won by 8 wkts

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 18, 2014  at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe won by 6 wkts

Photos

India vs England 2014, 3rd Test

Videos

Shaun Udal on India vs England 3rd Test

South Africa win series against Sri Lanka 1-0; move to No 1 in ICC Test rankings

India vs England Live Cricket Score 3rd Test Day 2 at Southampton: India end Day 2 at 25/1, trail by 544 runs

12 little-known facts about Garry Sobers

Pankaj Singh and other Test cricketers from Rajasthan

Mike Griffith: My choice of Mike Gatting as President of MCC was all about timing

Alastair Cook England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of Sri Lanka 2014 South Africa vs Sri Lanka South Africa vs Sri Lanka 2014 Sri Lanka Sri Lanka vs South Africa Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2014

Mahela Jayawardene: Regret ending Test career without win in Australia

Hashim Amla: Credit to Sri Lankan spinners for making things difficult

Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2nd Test: Spinners bowled their hearts out, says Angelo Mathews after series loss

ICC investigating Moeen Ali’s Gaza wristbands

Pankaj Singh: Playing Tests for India was my biggest dream

Moeen Ali wears ‘Save Gaza’ band: Instances where cricketers made political statements on the field

India vs England 2014, 3rd Test at Southampton: Jos Buttler’s blitz, Ian Bell’s century and other highlights from Day 2

India’s many dropped catches at slips against England

South Africa: The fourth innings champions

Sourav Ganguly-Jagmohan Dalmiya saga timeline

Fan of the Day

Fan Cricket

Fan Cricket

11 Posts | 2 Fans

Brazil vs Netherlands, 3rd place Fifa World Cup 2014 match Video Highlights

OnePlus One headed to India: Here’s why it is a flagship killer

“F**k You, Xiaomi” – A great price for a great phone isn’t enough if you don’t respect your customers

Spotted: Kareena Kapoor in a stunning avatar during Singham Returns promotions!

Weightlifter Vikas Thakur wins 12th silver for India in the Commonwealth Games 2014

Eid-ul-Fitr 2014: 7 practices that are followed on the Feast of Breaking the Fast

Rafael to miss rest of Man Utd’s tour of the USA with groin injury

Entertainment song Teri Mahima Aprampaar: Udit Narayan’s rendition reminds you of old Akshay Kumar songs!

Prevent Diabetes Tip – get regular health check-ups

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here