The Unforgiven: Mercenaries or missionaries – Facing up to cricket’s past

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The Unforgiven is a comprehensive exploration of the so-called ‘Rebel Tours’ with a special focus on the West Indies cricketers who visited for two tours in the early 1980s, the book explores the background to those tours and their consequences in great depth.

The Unforgiven: Mercenaries or Missionaries

While many who accepted big money to tour South Africa in the face of a ban on competition from the International Cricket Council, The Unforgiven explores why and how the West Indies Rebels came to be so disproportionately affected.

Many of the South African players they played against in the apartheid state are still held in high esteem around the cricketing world, but the tourists were branded pariahs back home.

The book delves into the consequences of the tour, chronicling the starkly different sets of circumstances the players experienced.

Sydney journalist Ashley Gray tells the untold story of the more obscure names who joined the tour, many of whom did so in the hopes that it would provide a pathway out of poverty but instead found themselves destitute with some turning to drugs and alcohol.

The Unforgiven explores how the bigger names on the Rebel Tours like Alvin Kallicharran, were insulated from the worst effects of being labelled as a traitor to their own. Kallicharran may have been banned by the West Indies but he continued to play cricket in South Africa.

Gray paints as complete a picture of the scene as possible this far removed from the actual events which lends the Unforgiven a surreal quality while also anchoring it to reality.

It may be a ‘cricket book’, but Gray’s work is an exploration of the human condition and how we cope with tragedy, betrayal and adversity.

One could be forgiven for skimming over subjects to ensure a neat narrative, but The Unforgiven dives headlong into the fallout of the tour for each man. The common thread is the great tragedy of it all, of lives, destroyed and men forever haunted by their actions.

Gray provides crucial context

Gray tackles the subject artfully, brilliantly capturing the spirit of the day to provide vital context for what befell the Rebels after their tours and also inform why it was they were treated so harshly.

The Unforgiven tells the moving story of men who have heretofore been relatively easy to dismiss as pawns of political games much larger than themselves. The book is available on Amazon or directly from Pitch Publishing. 

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