Larry Gomes was offered enough money to go top apartheid South Africa in the 1980s to set him up for life, but the former Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies batsman says he still doesn’t regret turning down the offer.
Gomes relived that controversial period in West Indies cricket on the Mason and Guest radio programme on the Voice of Barbados on Tuesday.
West Indies teams made two “rebel” tours of South Africa in 1982/83 and 83/84 under Lawrence Rowe when that country was still ostracised from international sport because of its racial segregation policy.
“I was in Toronto on holidays (1983) and the phone kept ringing, Lawrence (Rowe) calling, (Faoud)n Bacchus calling, Crofty (Colin Croft) calling,” Gomes recounted. “They wanted me to come down to join them down there.”
He also recounted a meeting with Ali Bacher the chief organiser of the rebel tours. “I had met with Dr (Ali) Bacher in Manhattan with my mentor and advisor Hugh Henderson. We met at a hotel privately and went through more or less a contract..but I didn’t sign it because I wanted to come back to Toronto and talk to the wife, because the wife was pregnant at the time.”
He explained the contrasting emotions he experienced.
“I was in two minds…If I’d gone I’d have been set for a lifetime. But at the time, the apartheid thing, and you studying you want to go back home to Trinidad and I don’t think they would welcome you too much, so that swayed me not to go there. I didn’t want to have a child born in South Africa at the time…It wasn’t easy. It was very difficult to turn it down. But Dr Bacher and I decided not to disclose the amount…I still have the contract. I would have been good for a lifetime. I also had a race horse (in the contract).”
Man dubbed ‘Mr Dependable’
However, 37 years later, the man dubbed “Mr Dependable” in the all-conquering West Indies sides of the early to mid-1980s is happy with how things turned out.
“I had no regrets really,” he said.
However, commenting on what became of some of his former teammates who did go to South Africa he said: “Maybe some of them, they were happy that they went but most of them, afterwards I think they realised maybe they made a mistake by going.”
He added: “It’s sad for the guys though. The kind of money they went for, I don’t think it was enough. I know their careers would have been at stake…I think I was the only one who negotiated a contract with the Doc. Most of the guys ended up in South Africa without contracts.”
Gomes also spoke about his playing career in which he played 60 Tests between 1976 and 1987, scoring 3,171 runs and averaging 39.63. His personal highlights included his first Test match against Tony Greig’s England side at Nottingham in 1976, his first century, at Bourda, Guyana in 1978 against the Bobby Simpson-led Australia side, devoid of their Kerry Packers stars, and being part of the West Indies World Cup-winning squad in 1979.
However, the efficient left-hander said his favourite moment in the middle came at the Queen’s Park Oval in the 1983 series against India.
“We were three wickets for one run with Gordon (Greenidge) and Desmond (Haynes) and Viv (Richards) back in the pavilion, and then I came in together with Clive (Lloyd) and we put on maybe 200-plus (237) for the fourth wicket. So I think that hundred (123) stands out because we had to build back that innings and get a respectable total.”