(Jamaica Observer) Pat Rousseau is still not happy with how iconic former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was “disrespected” by batting star Brian Lara 14 years ago.
Rousseau, the former president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), said that Lara, also a past West Indies captain, showed disrespect to Mandela, the retired head of the African National Congress when he did not respond to a letter from the former freedom fighter for the West Indies team to resolve their differences with the WICB and save a tour of the African country in 1998.
Rousseau, who was Board president when Lara led a strike by players going on the Caribbean team’s first tour since Mandela was released from prison in 1990, said Lara’s behaviour at the time was unnecessary.
“Mandela wrote a letter and sent it to Brian Lara, asking him to continue the tour while they were going on with the foolish strike in London, which nobody has ever been able to explain as it made no sense at all,” Rousseau said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
The players went on strike for more pay, among other demands for the tour, which went into 1999. One group of players who had flown to London for the connecting flight on South Africa, actually travelled to the former racist republic, and then returned to London as the tour plunged into crisis.
Others remained in London until the matter was resolved.
The West Indies lost the five-match Test series 5-0, and the one-day international match-up 6-1.
But the Mandela snub by Lara still remains etched in Rousseau’s mind.
“Mandela expressed disappointment with how the matter was handled.
“Remember Lara never even acknowledged the letter and I know that Mandela was a little peeved, because I got that from (South African sports and recreation minister) Steve Tshwete and from Ali Bacher (former CEO of Cricket South Africa).
“Can you imagine? Brian Lara, a black man ignored a request from Mandela?
“There are guys who would jump off buildings for Mandela, bigger heroes than Brian Lara. He never answered Mandela and I don’t think he has ever answered him since then.
“I was very disappointed about four or five years ago when Mandela granted him an audience. I would never have seen him. I think he was out of order,” Rousseau said.
It was the same tour in which Rousseau, his wife Hester, and sports journalist Tony Becca were held up an robbed at gunpoint by three young men in the Johannesburg township of Soweto.
The West Indies are yet to win a series in South Africa.
The highlights of Lara’s 18-year career of representing the West Indies in international cricket were the 131 Test matches and 299 one-day internationals that he played.
In Tests, Lara remains the West Indian cricketer to have scored most runs (11,953), and most centuries (34) at a healthy average of 53. He also scored 10,405 one-day international runs at an average of 40.
Lara, now 43, retired from international cricket at the end of the 2007 World Cup match against England. The World Cup was hosted by the Caribbean for the first time.