January 08, 2015 by
The forced removals that destroyed the culturally-diverse Marabastad community count amongst the most shameful incidents in Pretoria history, separating the Black, Indian and Coloured communities that lived in the area. They all played cricket together in an association presided over by the famous Mr Sooboo and in the mid-1930s there were numerous teams playing like Azads, Old Boys, Navyugas, Sheffield, Rangers, Foresters, Burma Lads, Districts, Olympians Kismet and Clydes.
But these teams were largely mono-cultural, with Azads comprising mainly Gujaratis, Rangers being a Coloured team, Burma Lads made up of Tamils and Districts largely comprising Surtees. However race never played a part in sport as competitions were mixed. Black cricket played at Bantulie was curtailed with the forced removal of Blacks to Atteridgeville. But by then the Group Areas Act had further condemned Indians to Laudium and Coloureds to Eersterust.
Facilities in Marabastad comprised only two fields which were used for soccer and cricket. One had a grass pitch and the other a matting wicket which was known as the Razor’s Edge because of the rough sand and stones that cut up anyone foolhardy enough to leave his feet. The uneven pitch was bouncy and dangerous and Dhiraj Soma (Sapa), perhaps the Father of Sport in Marabastad, once had his front teeth knocked out batting on it.Teams from the Marabastad region, including Bantulie (the current site of the Tech grounds), where Black cricket was centred, were selected to play against sides from Johannesburg and the Western Transvaal, as well as Brits. Even the great Basil d’Oliveira turned out to represent Northern Transvaal in an interprovincial game.
By then Marabastad had all but closed down and Laudium had become its successor for cricket. The complex history of Marabastad cricket included a mass folding of clubs in the early 1970s, with the survivors, Foresters, Sheffield and Burma Lads, going to play in the SACBOC leagues, which was not a simple task as it meant travelling to places like Bosmont, Newclare, Lenasia, Ermelo, Potchefstroom and Germiston.
Rashid Varachia’s attempt at unifying cricket in 1976 also failed as Foresters and Rangers initially joined the White leagues but pulled out after a couple of years, with various on-field incidents reflecting racial undertones. It was clear true integration was still far off. In 1975, Foresters were allowed to use the ground in Laudium as their home base, but in 1978 they pulled out of the league and the venue became derelict. Burma Lads and Shefield continued playing in the SACBOC league.
It wasn’t until 1984 when an attempt to rekindle cricket was made. Cricket resurfaced after a few years in the doldrums. Although the area was given a turf sports ground, the facilities remained ill-prepared with long grass and cooking flour used to mark the pitch and stones for boundaries!. New teams were formed: Cavaliers, Delfos, Trishul, and Kent. Brits, Rangers, Districts and Sheffield re-surfaced. But that only lasted a couple of years before fizzling out again as facilities were non-existent.
After the SA tour to India during 1991 interest in cricket was renewed. A further attempt was made in 1991 to rekindle cricket in Laudium, by Nilesh Mistry and Harry Karsen, with Delfos, Foresters, Leeds (ex-Sheffield), Kent, Brits Al-Amien and Districts all playing a part in what was to become the Sunday League.
In 1998, unity talks with the Northerns Cricket Union, saw Laudium, one of the previously disadvantaged teams, nominated to play in the Northerns Premier League. That was always going to be a huge challenge and someone needed to guide them through these turbulent waters. That someone was Aniel Soma and by 1999 he had masterminded the participation at the highest level by deserving players as well as development of the new Oval in Laudium and the upgrading of the derelict building to a clubhouse to meet the demands of cricket.
When Soma was a young player, techniques were learnt mainly by listening to radio commentary, But professional coaches were brought into Laudium to assist, like Anton Ferreira and Gerhard Maree. The township south-west of the CBD can now be considered a cricketing stronghold, having hosted matches in the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2005 and India A tour matches, but it has taken a lot of effort and determination to achieve that.
The current team, evenly split between Black and Indian players, will continue to honour the tradition of great Marabastad and Laudium figures like the disciplined Arthur Karodia, the deft Eddie Naidoo, the brute Dhiraj Soma (Sapa), the fearless Viggie Naidoo, the guile of Jerry Makan, the stylish touches of Rashid Bhikha, the cunningness of G Pillay, the power of Solly May, the all-round capability of Julian Weideman and the pace of Ameen Nagdee. How can we ever forget the likes of Chandoo Ramjee, Mohamed Mia, Dhanraj Soma, Ramesh Nathoo, Hira Soma, Nithia Pillay, Ebrahim Ebrahim, Ragie Moodley, Gopal Chetty, Deenen Padiachy, Hama Ahmed or Yusuf Ismail, Deshi Bhaktawer, Yogendra Naran, Gaffar Ahmed and their contribution to our cricket.
We pay tribute to those who paved the way.