The presence of West Indies legend Garfield Sobers in his Sheffield Shield team while he was starting out was a great education, both in cricket and life, according to former Australia captain Ian Chappell.
Speaking about instances of racism he experienced throughout his playing career, particularly whenever he went to South Africa under the Apartheid regime, Chappell said that even Sobers didn’t escape racist slurs.
“As a youngster growing up in a family where there was no notable prejudice, despite being in the era of the White Australia Policy, I wasn’t really aware of racism,” Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.
“I had the good fortune to commence my Sheffield Shield career in the same team as champion West Indian all-rounder Garry Sobers. That was a wonderful education in both cricket and life.
“My first overseas tour was to South Africa in 1966-67 and it was an eye-opener. The apartheid regime was in power and we got a taste of its abhorrent nature after winning the second Test in Cape Town.
“Why don’t you pick Garry Sobers? Then you’ll have a team full of blacks”, was the offensive comment directed at Australian batsman Grahame Thomas by an ignorant patron in the team hotel. Thomas has Native American lineage dating back to the days of slavery. Sensibly he walked away from any confrontation,” said Chappell.
Chappell recounted when West Indies batting great Viv Richards had accused the Australian team led by his brother Greg of racism.
“In 1975-76, my brother Greg captained Australia against West Indies. In a book published after the series, Viv Richards suggested there had been some racially prejudiced comments,” he said.
“I asked Greg, who had a similar outlook to me, if he’d heard any such and he said, “No”. I later spoke to Viv on the subject and he said he was referring to one player and assured me that it had all been sorted out.”