Johannesburg: The South African cricket fraternity is mourning the death of one of its oldest Indian-origin veterans, Abdul Samed Bulbulia, who passed away today at the age of 82.
Popularly known as Sam, Bulbulia represented Transvaal province under the auspices of the South African Cricket Board of Control (SACBOC) when the sport was divided on racial lines through apartheid legislation.
Bulbulia played as an opening batsman for two decades and was, in fact, still playing when the Dadabhai Trophy matches were first granted first-class (three-day) status in 1971.
He was part of the golden era of SACBOC cricket in the 1950s and represented their national side under the captaincy of Basil d'Oliveira against the Kenyan Asian team that toured South Africa in the 1956/57 season.
Although d'Oliveira migrated to the UK to build an illustrious career there, Bulbulia decided to remain in South Africa to become one of the legends of the Crescents Cricket Club together with other members of his family, as he, his father and some of his brothers were all players of note.
The Crescents Club was particularly strong in the 1950s and produced four members of the various SACBOC sides that played international matches.
They were also a highly principled family who defied a government order under the notorious Group Areas Act in the 1950s to forcibly resettle all families of Indian descent from the centre of Johannesburg to Lenasia, some good 30km away.
Bulbulia was honoured for his services to the game by being named an Honorary Life Vice-President of the Gauteng Provincial Cricket Board and was also one of the inaugural recipients of CSA's Heritage Blazers in 2014.
These blazers acknowledge the players who represented their national federations before the different racial cricket boards were united under banner as the United Cricket Board of South Africa, the precursor of CSA.
"Sam was an outstanding cricketer and sportsman who represented SACBOC and the Transvaal Board when its cricket was at its strongest," said CSA Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat.
"He was one of the many, many talented cricketers who were regrettably denied opportunity when in the prime of their lives. On behalf of the CSA Family I extend deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and all his cricketing colleagues."