Basil D'Oliveira 1931-2011 November 19, 2011

Basil D'Oliveira dies aged 80

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.

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  • Rob on November 20, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    He was the first and most important example of the English SA imports. Through him and the tolerance of the UK systems he was able to fulfil his potential, which his own country chose to ignore due to its disgraceful politics and racism.

    Maybe when people decry the UK importing such sportsmen and women then they should take a look through history to see what a benefit it has brought not only the individuals but Cricket/sports as a whole!!

    Long may his memory and example last.

  • Ramakrishnan on November 20, 2011, 15:33 GMT

    RIP Basil D' were a good cricketer and a thorough gent..

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2011, 14:04 GMT

    RIP Dolly. Superb player and a top bloke all round. Up until a few years ago he was a regular still at WCCC and will be sadly missed.

  • Harsh on November 20, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    My homage to this great cricketer,who was a true ornament to the game.Sad that apartheid curtailed his career but for which he may have been an all-time great.The 1968 episode is a legacy for Cricket.From what I studied he must have been a very dashing,entertaining batsmen.

  • Aditya on November 20, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    He was a very handsome man. No wonder he was called 'Dolly', by his team mates. His demeanor in his photo's suggests a very pleasant gentleman.

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    Basil D'Oliveira & Gary Sobers are the two best true all-rounders in my book. Trueman-Statham-Barrigton era is the one which brought me close to Cricket-- hardly missing any BBC Cricket commentary when these greats play. Listening to BBC in the night and often messing up my job the next day, inviting the wrath of my boss - a tough IAS officer in the Finance ministry, who didn't care a hoot for cricket.By the time D'Oliveira's era, my admiration got split between W I & England. BBC still helped me to trade off part of my work for following Cricket. But at an individual level it was a toss -up between Sobers & D'Oliveira. The South African incident made D'Oliveira a hero in my eyes-- a tragi-hero!.They don't make such multidimensional all-rounders anymore. A significant page in Cricket's History has been torn off by the good Lord and taken the gentleman-rebel away along with that. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Austin on November 20, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    A very sad story...I never knew Dolly; but now I do. May his soul rest in peace. As a black South African myself it's very sad to read what he went through because of apartheid. I can't stop feeling bad; this is just too painful.

  • mike on November 20, 2011, 4:13 GMT

    A dignified and wonderful man; I was lucky enough to get his autograph, which was gracefully given immediately after his dismissal for a duck in a county match at Worcester. It is to England's shame that he was not originally selected in 1968, and to its credit that it eventually manned up to the South African politicians and chose him as a replacement.

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2011, 3:37 GMT

    I recall as a schoolboy in my native Barbados calling BD's hotel room to ask for an autograph. This was during the B'dos leg of MCC's tour of the Caribbean in '68. He duly obliged the next day and I had my souvenir. It was a special day for me at venerable Kensington Oval. I found him to be warm, kind, friendly and humble. Had a gentle smile befitting his personality. I would never presume to know where BD is spending eternity; that's up to the Almighty & the Living GOD, the Creator of all things. Suffice to say that he left his mark on the cricketing world and beyond. BTW, WI during the mid-60s would've been hard-pressed to beat SA. However with Hunte, Kanhai, Sobers, Butcher, Nurse & Lloyd with the bat and the fearsome Hall/Griffith in tandem along with the 3-in-1 Sobers, Gibbs & Holford doing the bowling, I think we would've had a slight edge in a 5-Test series in either country. As youngsters, we wanted badly to see the Pollocks, Goddard, Barlow, 'Tiger' Lance, Lindsay & co. live.

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2011, 21:09 GMT

    I remember Dolly most on the last day of the 1970/71 Ashes series. I wagged school to see it. Australia didn't require a whole lot of runs and Kerry O' Keefe had started finding the boundary, not looking in any danger at all. Illingworth shrewdly threw the ball to D' Oliveira who took wickets with his first and second balls. Game over Ashes to England. RIP Bas - you were one of the pivotal figures in the removal of Apartheid.

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