COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Saait Magiet. A name that carries the same gravitas such as other South African cricketing greats like Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards and Eddie Barlow.
Magiet who? That must be the question you're asking … And even more fervently, how can I place him on the same lofty pedestal as Pollock, Richards and Barlow?
Well, Saait Magiet was that good. He really was! The only shame was that he never had the opportunity to showcase his immense talents to a wider audience due to the Apartheid regime.
And that was in itself a crime against any cricket lover too for Magiet loved an audience. He wasn’t a showman. Far from it in fact.
No, it was rather the sense of the occasion. Be it a Grand Challenge Cup final for his beloved Primrose CC or an all-important Howa Bowl clash against arch-rivals Transvaal, Magiet was often the centre of attraction.
Arguably the jewel in the non-racial South African Cricket Board crown during the 1970s and 80s, the dashing all-rounder was a magnificent because he could routinely turn a game on its head, because he made opponents fear what he might do and because, perhaps above all, the way he played the game made even his fiercest rivals love his competitiveness.
Like his old WP Howa Bowl teammate Vinnie Barnes said in a tribute this week: “If we lost wickets upfront he would contribute with the bat, if we struggled for wickets you just gave him the ball.”
It is at this point that I need to lay down a disclaimer. As a youngster growing up in and around the Cape Town cricket circles during the 1980s, I had the pleasure of watching Magiet every Saturday.
Not many of my generation were afforded that satisfaction.
To us kids, particularly his sons Rashaad and Yusuf “Joey” Magiet, nephews Jameel and Ahmad Magiet and myself, playing under the trees at the Rosmead sportsground opposite “KC” alongside the Primrose CC First XI matches, there was no greater hero.
The great man in action! Picture: Supplied pic.twitter.com/Nn6497tb3V
Born virtually under the railway line in Claremont’s Stegman Road – in such close proximity to the hallowed Newlands cricket and rugby grounds that he was never allowed to grace as a player – into a sport-crazed family, Magiet was always destined to swing a cricket bat, pick up a rugby ball, or run the like the wind.
Coupled with the fierce sibling rivalry between Magiet and his elder brothers Ahmad, Rushdi and Mogamat and younger ones Rashaad and Ebrahim, it ensured that he inherently had the inner grit to fight his way to the top too.
Ultimately, it was Saait and Rushdi – a seam bowler – who rose to the highest level of the game that was afforded to them at the time.
The latter, though, enjoyed a distinguished administrative career after unity, which reached its pinnacle when Rushdi held the position as Proteas convenor of selectors during the late 1990s and into the start of the new millennium.
The irony was not lost that Rushdi was now picking the national team that neither he nor Saait were able to represent during their playing careers due to the colour of their skin.
Saait turned to coaching instead after his playing career drew to a close.
Unity had been achieved too late for him to make a real impact as a player by 1991. Those dodgy knees – the brace was long part of his cricket gear – had finally given up on him. And all those hard years in construction had taken its toll.
Many believe coaching is not a natural fit for the greats because often the best aren’t able to translate their skills in the most educative manner. The game simply came too easy for them.
But Magiet overcame this obstacle, like many others throughout his colourful life, to forge a successful career in the WP Youth systems, guiding the young and talented cricketers of the Western Cape to numerous national U-19 Khaya Majola titles.
It is apt that he gained success in the Khaya Majola Week, for these two legendary SACBOC cricketers can now sit together in cricket’s heaven and regale old Howa Bowl battles fought out at the Adcock Stadium in Port Elizabeth and Green Point Stadiums.
Cricket South Africa handed him a blazer at the 2015 CSA awards in Sandton. I had the pleasure of interviewing him that night.
“This can never make up for what we lost out on, but at least our children and grandchildren have the chance now to get the real one,” he said before gesturing me to fetch his food quickly because “it’s already past 10”.
South African cricket lost one of its stalwarts this week in Malaysia, where Magiet suffered a heart attack.
Like I’ve said before, it’s cricket’s loss that only patrons of the wind-swept fields of Elfindale, Rocklands, Ravensmead and, of course, Rosmead and not Lord’s, the MCG and Newlands that can tell the tales of this great man.