Former provincial star Moosa Mangera passed away late on Thursday evening at the age of 67after a lengthy battle against cancer.
He represented Transvaal in cricket, soccer and athletics, being a naturally gifted sportsman. Mangera was an all-round athlete and his multi-faceted talents drew fear and admiration from his opponents. He was known for his fighting qualities as a sportsman.
He was born in April, 1945, and attended the Bree Street Primary School and later Johannesburg Central High. As a youngster he thrilled his teachers and mates as a sprinter and throughout his schooling days gained Inter-high and Transvaal colours. And when he wasn’t leaving his competitors in the dust, he was carving through defences and scoring goals by the dozen.
His amazing speed and agility prompted mates to nick-name him ‘monkey’ and it has stuck ever since! ‘Monkey’ was the perfect description. Many batsmen were victims to his agility and nimble footedness when he kept wicket. His running between wickets, stealing singles and two’s tested the best of fieldsmen and thwarted plans of captains and bowlers alike.
Simply put, Moosa was a sporting phenomenon.
He strode the sporting stage for 25 years and in that time played for Transvaal United in three inter-provincial soccer tournaments in 1966, ’68 and ’70.
In the meantime his cricket career was blossoming and Monkey was Transvaal’s first choice wicketkeeper for two seasons. He played for his beloved Crescents and helped them dominate the 70s and 80s, winning a number of league titles. He was brave and daring and often stood up to the wickets for most of the seam bowlers on matting wickets.
When the mercurial Ebrahim ‘Chicken’ Bhamjee bumped Mangera out of the ‘keeper’s position, he concentrated on his batting, was promoted up the order and enjoyed his best seasons for Transvaal. Mangera was suddenly placed in unfamiliar areas of the cricket field, but excelled as a fielder in the deep, in the slips and at cover-point.
Moosa, like Jonty Rhodes, could make the provincial teams on his fielding abilities alone. But he relished the responsibility as a middle-order batsman and scored five 50s including a best of 98 against Eastern Province where he shared a 149-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Abdul Bhamjee (89).
A moment of pure nostalgia was witnessed by a huge weekend crowd watching Transvaal and Natal in a crucial clash at Lenasia. Moosa top-edged the ball on to his face on a bouncer from Michael Patrick and was rushed off the field with a gruesome cut and bruising. He later emerged swathed in a bandage with a heavily swollen eye to partner Solly Chothia in a memorable stand, both ending with vital 50s and setting up a win for Transvaal!
Statistics and averages didn’t matter to him. He came from a tradition which said that your team came first and personal milestones had no place in cricket. Always wanting to be part of the action, Moosa took to bowling late in his career and was a competent off-spinner. As captain in a nail-biter against Natal at Curries Fountain he led his team to a famous victory by one run, the narrowest of margins in the history of the non-racial era. He took a career best of 8 for 80 in the match.
His versatility and bravery shone through once again when in his early forties he accompanied the Transvaal ‘B’ team to Cape Town for a place in the final. Moosa was injured; a rickety knee had gone really bad. But we all know that half a Moosa is better than none. With his young skipper, Mohammed Moosajee, he put on 134 for the 8th wicket. Moosa scored 48, and then bowled a tight line off a couple of paces to restrict the powerful Western province team and victory was achieved by five wickets.
His first-class career spanned 49 matches during which he made 952 runs, took 40 wickets and made 25 dismissals either in the field or behind the stumps.
“This is sad news indeed,” commented Cricket South Africa (CSA) Acting CEO Jacques Faul. “He was a multi-talented sportsman who would surely have gained international honours in at least one of the codes at which he excelled had he had the opportunity.
“More than that he was one of the characters who make cricket such a special game. On behalf of the CSA Family I extend condolences to his family and friends.”
The funeral will take place at 14h15 today at the West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.