“Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.”
The late ’70s and early ’80s were Interesting times for world cricket. one talking point of the early ’80s was the West Indies Rebel tours, a choice made by 18 young west Indians to tour Apartheid South Africa, ended up defining not only their careers but their lives, and forever being labelled Rebels
In the 40 odd years after these tours, South Africa became a democratic state, was reinstated back into world cricket, hosted the 2003 Cricket world cup, and West Indies have toured South Africa on Several Occasions, but the 18 players who were on the fateful tours of the 80’s remain unforgiven.
My guest today on the Cricktalk20 platform is a Man who has spent a lot of time compiling one of the best and most Authoritative books, on the Rebel Tour, on Cricktalk20 today I have the pleasure of chatting with Mr Ashley Gray the author of the best selling book The Unforgiven.
You recently published a book called THE UNFORGIVEN, which is doing pretty well worldwide, what made you write the book?
The spur was Richard Austin, the two-test West Indian allrounder from the late 1970s. I met him in Kingston, Jamaica, while reporting for an Australian cricket magazine in 2003. He was running with a gang and begging on the streets near a patty store in middle Kingston. His eyes were bloodshot with rum and he wanted money to feed his cocaine habit. But he was friendly and funny. He wanted me to contact “his friend” Kerry Packer immediately and ask him to install him as player-coach of NSW in the Sheffield Shield. He told me Mr Packer would be glad to hear from him.
It was hilarious but sad. Austin was 48 at the time. When he got serious, he said his life had gone downhill because he toured apartheid, South Africa, with the rebel West Indies side in 1983. Jamaica had never really forgiven him, he said. They couldn’t understand why he took huge sums of money to play in a country that discriminated against people of his own colour. He was ostracised. That’s when I knew there was a bigger story that had to be told.
Not many people have written about the rebel cricketers, do you feel by reading this book it will help people understand why the players went on that tour, and make them forgive them?
I think it will help people understand that the rebels were fellow human beings with the same strengths and frailties as themselves. It may not permit some to forgive them, but it will enable them to better understand their motives. It will also allow some of the players to find closure. To come out of exile and tell their stories. To take their rightful place in cricket history. Guys such as Everton Mattis, David Murray and Herbert Chang – who bore the brunt of their countrymen’s hostility.
Tell us how much time did you have to spend in the Caribbean to get this book done?
I was there for a month and a half all up. Jamaica, Nevis, Trinidad, Barbados, Antigua, plus Miami, Orlando, Raleigh and New York City in the US. I was in the Caribbean the holiday capital of the Americas – for the most part, but I had to work my butt off every day chasing interviews. It was gruelling.
What was the most challenging part of your research for this book?
Convincing the players that I was the real deal – that I would treat their stories fairly. It was hard gaining their trust. Facebook helped because I would post pictures of myself with a rebel I had met and this would then persuade other rebels I hadn’t seen yet that I could be trusted. It created momentum. Also, some ex-Test players were very rude to me. Not the rebels, though. One ex-Test player in Barbados started swearing at me and carrying on when all I wanted was five minutes of his time. Things like that are tough to take.
What is one thing that you hope people will get out of this book?
An appreciation of the rebels’ story and of where they stand in cricket history. An appreciation of the Caribbean and how important cricket and principle is to its people.
Do we expect to see some books from you in the future?
Lawrence Rowe and I are writing a book on his career.
How do you define success?
In the context of the book, respect from my peers and (hopefully) an acknowledgement that I have produced a work of some value.
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