Bacher always led from front

Book: Ali - The life of Ali Bacher

Book: Ali - The life of Ali Bacher

Author: Rodney Hartman

Publisher: Penguin

Reviewer: Meshack Motloung

Sports and politics do not mix, so goes the old adage. But Ali Bacher, one of the greatest cricket administrators this country has produced, used politics as a tool to unite cricket in South Africa.

Though he is no longer involved in the sport, the greatest legacy Bacher left to South African cricket was its development programme from townships to schools.

Born on May 24 1942 in Johannesburg, Ali soon fell in love with cricket.

His real name is Aron, but no one has called him by that name since his childhood.

He made friends with such great men as Nelson Mandela, the late Steve Tshwete and Desmond Tutu.

He was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time when South Africa achieved democracy in 1994.

Bacher was undoubtedly an outstanding spin bowler during his school days.

Though he was a cricketer of promise, Bacher was not successful with the bat. This was because of his added responsibility in having to captain his team at school.

He was also a respected school prefect who loved rugby almost as much as he loved cricket. Bacher followed the fortunes of the Springbok teams at home and abroad with a zealous passion.

Virtually all his life Bacher was "the boss" because he assumed a leadership role very early on in life. He also captained teams in which he was the youngest member and he hardly played for a team that he did not captain.

He captained his club, his province and the country, according to the author, Rodney Hartman.

In his profession and business life, he stamped his authority on all he did because he seldom served as anything less than chairman or managing director.

This book touches on the match- fixing scandal that rocked this country a few years ago and resulted in Hansie Cronje leaving the game in disgrace.

This resulted in the King Commission, which grilled Cronje for his part in the match-fixing scandal.

In the days leading up to his funeral, Ewie Cronje, Hansie's father, issued a media release that members of the United Cricket Board (UCB) would not be welcome at the funeral. At the time Bacher was not a member of the UCB, but an executive director of the International Cricket Council World Cup in 2003.

After masterminding the first World Cup in Africa, Bacher shocked everyone when he revealed he would step into the minefield of South African rugby at the height of a bitter controversy.

Brian van Rooyen came to power as president of the SA Rugby Football Union in 2003, in what people believed was a positive move to set the game on a sound footing.

Bacher put his credibility on the line when he agreed to help in the treacherous room of South African rugby.

He was looking for new challenges and he was not afraid to walk into the eye of a storm.