Omar Henry, the first black cricketer to represent South Africa, had no hesitation in admitting that he wouldn’t have donned his country’s colours if not for Nelson Mandela (95), who breathed his last in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Henry was picked in South Africa’s team for the 1992-93 Test series against India, the Rainbow Nation’s maiden Test series at home after being readmitted to international cricket in 1991.
Henry’s gratitude towards Mandela is probably greater than any other South African cricketer. “If not for him, I wouldn’t have played for South Africa. Considering where I was in my career, I wouldn’t have got the opportunity. I owe it to Nelson Mandela,” Henry (62) told MiD DAY from Cape Town yesterday.
“Well, at that stage, I felt I missed the bus because I had almost passed my sell-by-date. I was almost 40 years old. Mandela came and used sport as a vehicle to bring people together - people who were not together for more than 40 years. I personally benefited from that decision.
“I met him for the first time during that 1992-93 series. He was a remarkable man. I use him a lot as an example whenever I have to deliver speeches. I almost want to compare him with in many ways — not entirely — to Mahatma Gandhi. He falls in that bracket in terms of humility, in terms of striving to bring different classes together to improve relationships and to make the world a better world or a country,” said Henry, who is Boland Cricket’s CEO.