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November 19, 2011
Basil D'Oliveira, the South Africa-born former England allrounder, died early on Saturday, aged 80, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
In 1968, D'Oliveira, a Cape Coloured, was at the heart of one of cricket's greatest controversies, when the England tour of South Africa had to be called off since the government there refused to accept his presence in the visiting squad. The incident marked the beginning of South Africa's isolation from international cricket.
"Dolly", as he was affectionately called, couldn't establish a cricket career in South Africa due to the lack of opportunities for non-white players during the apartheid era. In 1960, the broadcaster and writer John Arlott persuaded him to move to England, where D'Oliveira initially played in the Lancashire leagues. .
He went on to play 44 Tests for England and made a name for himself as an allrounder, scoring 2484 runs at an average of 40, and picking up 47 wickets with his medium-pace bowling. His most famous Test innings was in the final Test of the 1968 Ashes, a 158 at The Oval that helped set up a thrilling series-levelling victory.
That innings came on the back of a summer of intense speculation over whether D'Oliveira would be picked for the South Africa series that followed the Ashes. South African politicians had made it abundantly clear that he would not be welcome due to his racial origins; despite the century at The Oval, D'Oliveira was left out of the England squad. He was later named as a replacement for the injured Tom Cartwright, a move that eventually caused the series to be cancelled. It was the cancellation of the series over D'Oliviera's selection which exposed the iniquities of South Africa's apartheid regime to the cricketing world.
Gerald Majola, the CEO of Cricket South Africa, led the tributes to D'Oliveira. "He was a man of true dignity and a wonderful role model as somebody who overcame the most extreme prejudices and circumstances to take his rightful place on the world stage," Majola said. "One can only imagine what he might have achieved had he made his debut as he should have done at the age of 20 on South Africa's tour of England in 1951."
Former Worcestershire and England team-mate Tom Graveney paid tribute to his close friend on Sky Sports. "He was a very good allrounder," he said. "He bowled medium pace, with a few off-spinners in amongst them. But his batting was the thing. He was tremendously strong. I can remember batting with him when the pitches were turning a bit because we played on wet wickets in those days and he was just terrific."
D'Oliveira had a lengthy career with Worcestershire, playing for them between 1964 and 1980, before taking over as the county's coach for a decade. In all first-class matches he scored 19,490 runs at 40.26 and took 551 wickets at 27.45. His son, Damian, also turned out for Worcestershire, representing them between 1982 and 1995.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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