Former Proteas manager Goolam Rajah died of complications related to Covid-19 on Tuesday. Picture: Cricket South Africa
Former Proteas manager Goolam Rajah died of complications related to Covid-19 on Tuesday. Picture: Cricket South Africa

Tributes pour in for ’special human being’ and late Proteas icon Goolam Rajah

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jun 29, 2021

Share this article:

JOHANNESBURG - Goolam Rajah never hit a cricket ball, nor caught one or bowled one for the Proteas, but he was among the greatest servants of the Proteas.

“A very special human being,” said Dr. Mohammed Moosajee, who took over from Rajah as the Proteas’ manager.

That was a sentiment echoed around the cricket world, from Proteas players, who were part of the more than 100 who were capped during his time as the manager to players in opposing teams and commentators.

ALSO READ: Teams can learn from Proteas management of cultural diversity, says Moosajee

Rajah died of complications related to Covid-19 on Tuesday.

“He was a selfless person. He served the game. He loved the game,” said Moosajee.

Rajah was a pharmacist who’s love of cricket took him to becoming manager of then Transvaal team shortly before unification in South African cricket and later he was the team manager of the post-unity Transvaal team and also served on the Gauteng Cricket Board. Rajah became the national team’s manager, a job he did for nearly two decades.

“Goolam was competent and organised. He left nothing to chance and that is why he was so good at what he did,” Moosajee recalled.

The players did not want for anything while Rajah was manager. “Goolam was a true father figure who looked after the players like his own,” said former Proteas captain and Cricket SA’s current Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith.

ALSO READ: Graeme Smith needs to find a way to reintegrate Proteas T20 ’rebels’

“He took care of everything with such detail that the players were able to focus totally on the cricket and that was why his tenure was so successful. The players were particularly appreciative of the way he looked after their wives and partners on away tours. We will indeed be fortunate to see his like again.”

One of Smith’s predecessors, Shaun Pollock, echoed similar sentiments on twitter. “Truly sad to hear of the passing of Goolam Rajah- a friend and legendary team manager of the Proteas. He was an integral part of my cricketing journey, always professional and treated us as family,” Pollock wrote.

It was Rajah who first planted the seed with Moosajee to succeed him as the Proteas team manager. “I was the team doctor, he was team manager but then there was some more executive duties required of the manager. He thought I would be good for the position and told me and when he did I just laughed. But he believed I could serve the team, not just in health but other areas too.”

ALSO READ: Proteas spinners bamboozle West Indies big hitters to level T20 series

While Rajah’s role as team manager - a tenure that started in 1991 and included World Cups in 1999, 2003 and 2007 - was ostensibly to ensure that the South African players would never want for anything, it didn’t prevent him from reaching out to players in opposing teams. “Goolam was a permanent member of Cricket SA during my playing days. Always had a smile on his face,” India’s great leg-spinner, Anil Kumble tweeted on Tuesday.

“Goolam was an outstanding and gentle person. Got to know him well through the years. He was kind and generous and I have so many wonderful memories of him and the great conversations we had,” the Sri Lankan great, Kumar Sangakkara, tweeted.

A reflection of Rajah’s standing internationally was that he was named as manager of the ICC’s World XI that played a ‘Super Series’ against Australia in 2005.

“He taught me how to communicate with the players, to serve the team and how to earn their respect. There was never enough he could do for the players. He was totally committed to his job,” said Moosajee.

“Father to so many over the years and loved by everyone whose life he touched - taught us patience, humility, kindness, to serve and to sometimes just listen and be quiet,” former South African all-rounder Robin Peterson wrote on instagram. “Thanks for all the lessons, laughs and fond memories ‘Mr Raj’.”

“A mentor,leader & friend,” Cricket SA’s current high performance manager and the Proteas’ former assistant coach, Vincent Barnes tweeted. “He was loved by all, not only for his love for the game,but also for his kindness & great sense of humour. He’ll be remembered as a giant in cricket,a respected stalwart in the fight for non-racial sport.”

“I extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Shaheda, popularly known to us all as Poppy, his children, Mohammed Faeez and Zuraida, his extended family, his friends and colleagues both in the game of cricket and in the wider society,” said Cricket SA’s acting CEO, Pholetsi Moseki.

Rajah was 74.

* Cricket SA stated Tuesday that the Proteas players would be wearing black armbands and will observe a minute’s in honour of Rajah before the third T20 International against the West Indies in Grenada.

** Former South African Indian XI & Transvaal XI cricketer and later administrator Rafique Khota passed away aged 88 on Tuesday.

Share this article: