If cricket was a kingdom, Dr Ali Bacher would be considered royalty in that land in both South Africa and the rest of the global sporting world. Recently students from the sports environment and others were given the opportunity to engage with Dr Bacher as part of an event organised by Stellenbosch University’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and Maties Sport.
According to Kimara Singh, Manager: Media and Communications at Maties Sport, Maties Sport wants to create an inclusive space where conversations like the one with Bacher can be had, and where students can have impactful engagement and learn from those opportunities.
“It is important to take these lessons from a seasoned professional and apply them – for students, student-athletes, and staff,” she explained.
“Maties Sport also invests in the holistic development of our student-athletes and staff through our PACER programme initiatives like the Captains Corner and Coaches Forum, which aim to enrich our coaches and captains by having engagements with various successful people in the sporting industry.”
Bacher was welcomed by the Head of Maties cricket and former professional cricketer, Mr Ryan Bailey, who “introduced Bacher as the father of South African cricket.”
Dr Bacher started the discussion by telling the audience about his various life experiences as a cricketer, administrator, and businessperson.
Bacher is a South African right-hand batter and test captain who led both the South African and Transvaal (now The DP World Lions) teams. He also served as administrator for the then United Cricket Board South Africa (now Cricket South Africa).
But Bacher also built a name for himself as a cricket administrator with the golden touch in his later years. While soft-spoken, Bacher was not one to back away from controversy and during the 1980s led several ‘rebel’ cricket tours overseas when South Africa’s apartheid policies made it a sporting no-go area. His decision was met with hostility from those involved in the struggle against apartheid who felt that the tours would only “lend credibility to the National Party.”
In between the controversy, Bacher, who graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a medical degree, worked actively to develop cricketers in non-white communities by hosting cricket clinics and development programmes in townships.
By the time the late President Nelson Mandela was released, Bacher had reinvented himself as South Africa’s cricket mastermind and all-rounder. Through Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, Bacher was introduced to Mr Steve Tshwete, who would later become the Minster of Sport in South Africa. Thanks to meetings facilitated between the South African Cricket Union (SACU) and the SA Cricket Board, the United Cricket Board (UCB) was established in 1991. Bacher would serve as the Board’s Administrator.
Tshwete would later become the go-to man for former President Thabo Mbeki, when the country had to enlist support for South Africa to get admission to the International Cricket Council (ICC). Together, Tshwete and Bacher travelled overseas and obtained the country’s admission.
Bacher remained at the helm at UCB for the best part of a decade, before stepping aside to mastermind the organisation of the 2003 World Cup. Along with his cricket credentials as a player and a cricket administrator.
Drawing on his diverse career, Bacher shared two of the most important characteristics that he believes people need to be successful, which are passion and commitment. These characteristics, he said “is what helped me during my cricket career, as an administrator as well as a student.”
Bacher also shared some of memories from his interactions with politicians such as South Africa’s current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who he said gave him sage advice.
“His advice was never to meet anyone one on one, and to always have a witness that can vouch for you. This is a lesson that I feel is important for young people to embrace once they enter the professional world.”
The reason for this, said Bacher is “if someone says you said or did one thing and you did not, the witness can vouch for what is the truth.”
During the Q and A session, Chief Director of Maties Sport, Ms Ilhaam Groenewald, asked Bacher why it had taken so long to take women’s cricket in South Africa seriously.
“The main reason for this was the lack of money,” said Bacher. “People were not willing to invest into women’s cricket compared to investments now.”
By Rayyaan Rhode