Saait Magiet was a world-class cricketer in any era who would have been (if not denied by apartheid) a double Springbok – in cricket and rugby. These were some of the praises for Magiet during a tribute event hosted by the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) in the President’s suite of PPC Newlands on Tuesday evening.
The tribute evening was organized after the passing of the legendary all-round sportsman Magiet last Tuesday while on holiday in Malaysia. He was 66.
Shafieka Waggie, daughter of Saait Magiet, Beresford Williams, president of the WPCA, Norman Arendse, former president of Cricket South Africa, Ebrahim Rasool, former premier of the Western Cape, Vincent Barnes, CSA’s high performance manager and Riyaad Najaar, principal of the Spine Road High School, all paid tribute to Magiet.
Barnes, who opened the bowling in the Western Province team with Magiet, said he would have been a world-class cricketer in any era.
Mogamad Allie, editor of the book More Than a Game, said according to the SARU loose forward Edgar Siljeur, Magiet was surely the best and most versatile sportsman produced during the SACOS era.
Najaar said Magiet would have played for the Springbok rugby team (if not denied by apartheid).
As an opening bowler Magiet was devastating, often ripping through the opposition with a combination of pace and swing as manifested by his 171 first-class wickets claimed at a meagre average of 12.99.
Allie quoted Barnes who said that as long as Magiet played, the Western Province team did not have to worry. If they lost wickets up front, he would contribute with the bat. If they struggled for wickets, they just gave him the ball. He said Magiet was the ultimate safety net.
Barnes said Magiet was undoubtedly one of the best cricketers he played with or saw.
The cricket commentator Aslam Khota, a former Transvaal opening batsman, said Magiet possessed stamina, and combined speed with craft as a pace bowler. He was a devastating stroke-maker and often changed the game in favour of his team.
A classic all-rounder, he represented the Western Province Cricket Board and was chosen for the South African Cricket Board national teams, captaining them in 1987 and 1991 and for a SACOS XI in 1982. He played briefly after unity although he was almost 40 years old by then.
He was widely regarded as one of the finest loose forwards in the SARU ranks and there is consensus that had he moved to the Green Point Track-based WP union, he would have been a shoe-in for national colours. However, his loyalty to the Primrose rugby and cricket clubs precluded such a move from even being considered, wrote Allie.
The journalist Dougie Oakes wrote that Magiet was a flag bearer for the cause of non-racialism in sport. He refused to be bought by those punting the notion of mixed sport over a weekend and segregated facilities, group areas and pass laws during the week.
Magiet was a venomous quick bowler and a dashing middle-order batsman. Those who knew cricket were convinced that in another time and place he would have been playing at international level.
He and his brother, Rushdi, turned down a lucrative offer to play for a South African Invitation X1 against Greg Chappell’s sanctions-busting International Wanderers side in 1976.
If he had the opportunity, Magiet would have been able to make his mark on the international scene just as players in the post-apartheid eras like Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, JP Duminy, Hashim Amla, Paul Adams, Kagiso Rabada and others have done, said Allie.
Rasool said apartheid was defeated by the ordinary things that people did that transformed their lives into extraordinary heroism, and that is the tribute one has to pay to Saait Magiet.
“We did not succumb to the idea of a white supremacy mindset. Here was someone (Magiet) who could bowl as fast if not faster than Garth le Roux, who could hit the ball further than Adrian Kuiper. That was important to kill the white supremacy mindset. That freed our minds so that we could free ourselves,” said Rasool.