THE UNFORGIVEN by Ashley Gray

THE UNFORGIVEN
by Ashley Gray

Published by Pitch Publishing
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way
Worthing, Sussex BN13 3QZ

Website: www.pitchpublishing.co.uk

Pages: 256

MRP: £19.99

   

After being cast aside from Test cricket in 1970, South Africa's only "international" exposure in the generation until their return in 1991 was through tours made by England, Sri Lankan, Australian and West Indian teams, and which were usually referred to as rebel tours.

Consequences for cricketers taking part on such tours involved bans, the severity of which depended upon the country's concerned board. Some handed out life bans, others were more lenient. Debates raged, some of the cricketers would later be accepted back into the fold whilst others were never forgiven.

Two West Indian sides toured South Africa in the early 1980s and the title of Ashley Gray's account, The Unforgiven, should give an indication of how those tourists were viewed at the time and afterwards. This excellent book spends less time on accounts of the games and tours but instead concentrates on the tourists' lives before and since.

Much hard work and perseverance must have gone into The Unforgiven. Ashley Gray has personally interviewed the players and even those who have since died, Sylvester Clarke and Richard Austin, have had reminiscences by their family and team-mates written about them.

The West Indian cricketers who travelled to South Africa included few of the very big names of that generation (although a couple came close to going) but notable names who did go included Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran and Colin Croft. Some of the cricketers who went felt at the time that their national aspirations would go unrewarded with further international appearances unlikely.

I must admit that I had not initially expected to pick up The Unforgiven and find a series of chapters about the West Indian cricketers who toured South Africa in the 1980s. There is a resume of the tours and scorecards of the "Tests" at the end but, to me, there is no doubt that the layout of Ashley's book is the best way. One can, after all, but perhaps with a bit of digging, find statistical details of the tours on the internet whereas any interested reader in The Unforgiven will learn a lot about some of the lesser-known West Indian cricketers, their backgrounds, their reasons for going to South Africa and, perhaps most pertinently, what became of them afterwards. The additional comments by cricketers who held down places in the national team - remember the strength of West Indies in the 70s and 80s - also adds much to each portrait.

There will, I am sure, be many whose names amongst the West Indian tourists are familiar, some less so. Some have moved to America, others have fallen upon hard times. The story of Richard Austin whose story became better known before his death in 2015 is a sad one. Collis King may be remembered for dramatically changing the course of the 1979 World Cup final but there is much more to him than that one match as becomes apparent in the book.

The, shall we say, off the field antics of some of the cricketers makes for remarkable and jaw-dropping reading. Let's just say that it was obviously a different era. The Unforgiven is a fascinating and engrossing book and Ashley Gray deserves great credit for bringing the story of these West Indian cricketers to our book shelves.