He was a handy Test batsman, and his captaincy record is to die for – but Dr Ali Bacher will be remembered as the cricket administrator with the Teflon touch. The swarthy but softly-spoken Bacher organised the so-called rebel tours during the 1980s, when South Africa’s apartheid policies made it a sporting no-go area. But Bacher saw the post-Mandela writing on the wall, put away the cheque-book, and reinvented himself as South Africa’s cricket supremo when the previously separate black and white associations combined to set up the United Cricket Board. Bacher’s reward came when his country marched back onto the international scene at the 1992 World Cup. He remained at the helm for the best part of a decade, before stepping aside to mastermind the organisation of the 2003 World Cup. Shortly before that, he managed to deflect most of the flak over Hansie Cronje – whom he originally defended stoutly – and the match-fixing affair. As a player Bacher was a scrapper, at his best turning to leg off the back foot, and he was a fabulous fielder. He took over the national captaincy in 1969-70, when he was lucky enough to inherit what was probably South Africa’s greatest side, including Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow and a pair of Pollocks. Bacher skippered in only four Tests – SA’s last for 22 years – won the toss each time, and completed four thrashings of a very handy Australian side.
Steven Lynch (June 2004)