Cricket on Cape Town's Mean Streets
I played for my father's club, St Augustine's, on a vast open space a few miles from both the sea and Cape Town. Looking back on it, the conditions we played under were a tribute to our fanatical love for cricket: about 25 teams shared the same open space and we had to tend the matting wickets ourselves.
On the morning of the match I'd walk about ten miles from my home to help prepare the wicket. We'd roll it, water it so it would cake hard on top, nail the matting down on the caked mud and then place boulders and stones on it to keep it down while we changed for the match. We had to be that careful because animals of all sizes as well as people would happily walk over our precious wicket unless we covered it!
We were never coached. We used to practice in the streets of Signal Hill, where some of us would be hauled off to jail by the police if we were caught playing on the road ... Our cricket was completely uninhibited by tactical thoughts or other subtleties. The two fastest bowlers would run in and try to hit the batsmen and they in turn would do their best to hammer them out of sight. Knocks were given and taken, none of us had a clue about field-placings and the spinners didn't know how to grip the ball. But cricket was our religion...
Although we Coloureds had little to do with white people, I eventually wanted to find out more about their style of play and facilities. Whenever possible, I'd go to Newlands, Cape Town's famous stadium, to watch the great white players in Test matches. I'd sit in the segregated part of the ground, blissfully unconcerned that I couldn't sit beside a white man but terribly envious at the skills on display. I could only afford to go for one day - I'd clean my father's pigeon loft to earn my shilling for admission and walk the seven miles to the ground."
- From: D'Oliveira, B with Murphy, P, 1980, Time to Declare: An Autobiography, Macmillan Publishers: Johannesburg, p 1-4