Having become the first non-white to play for South Africa in the post-apartheid era and also the oldest Test debutant, Omar Henry’s place in international cricket history is assured.
Born in the winemaking region of Stellenboschin on 23 January 1952, it was Henry and South Africa’s misfortune that his vintage years coincided with the latter stages of the old regime. However, their loss was Scotland’s gain as he played extensively in Scotland.
Arriving in this country in his mid-20s to play club cricket, Henry was to become one of the most influential figures the game here has known.
A pugnacious left-handed batsman and skillful slow left-arm bowler, he went on to represent his adopted country on 62 occasions between 1981 and 1992, marking his debut with a couple of wickets against the touring Australians at Titwood.
A decade later the same venue provided the stage for one of his most remarkable performances, a memorable 102 not out against MCC – from only 66 deliveries! It is safe to assume that Henry would have adapted well to the T20 era.
With a total of 1603 runs at a shade under 30 and 78 wickets, his overall record is impressive though teammates of the time speak less of his undoubted ability than of his influence on the dressing room.
Henry instilled a professional approach, a wonderfully positive outlook and a belief that cricket matches are there to be won – regardless of the opposition. A born leader and natural motivator, he captained Scotland 14 times.
If Henry left a lasting impression on the national team, the same can also be said of the clubs he represented with distinction – Poloc, Stenhousemuir, Arbroath and West Lothian.
His legacy is even more tangible though. Henry’s son Riyaad, born in Falkirk, has already represented Scotland A and is expected to follow his father into the senior team in due course.