Basil D'Oliveira 1931-2011

Basil D'Oliveira dies aged 80

ESPNcricinfo staff

November 19, 2011

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Basil D'Oliveira
Basil D'Oliveira played 44 Tests despite making his debut at the age of 35 © PA Photos

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 Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by FlashAsh 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.

Posted by nayonika on (November 20, 2011, 15:33 GMT)

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

Posted by   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.

Posted by harshthakor 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.

Posted by AdityaMookerjee 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by AustinGege 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.

Posted by MikeMiller 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by IsaacSolomonSolson on (November 19, 2011, 21:04 GMT)

I had the opportunity to play against Basil when he toured Israel with Harrow C.C in 1976.He was a man of true dignity and a wonderful role model. He was not only a great cricketer but a great human being and very friendly person. I have very good cricket playing memories with him because not only I scored a century against him, he was so impressed with my batting and wicketkeeping that he promised me to play me in County Cricket but unfortunately could not go due to family commitments. Wish his family condolences "May his soul Rest inPeace"

Posted by jaykdane81 on (November 19, 2011, 20:52 GMT)

I'm inspired by this great man... Not just Saffas, but even we Indians, are now enjoying the fruits of our fathers' labours, their bravery in non-violently fighting this utterly despicable thing called discrimination... People, learn that we have just one life... let us use it to benefit and uplift those around us...

Posted by hhillbumper on (November 19, 2011, 19:29 GMT)

Dolly showed great dignity and great commitement to England.Very proud to have had him represent our country and what he bought to the game in this country and world wide.RIP

Posted by ashes61 on (November 19, 2011, 18:37 GMT)

Here was a real man - dignity, maturity, integrity, discretion & indominatable courage. A role model for ANY member of the human race, let alone any cricketer and, for anyone who followed ENG's performances of the 1960s & early '70s, a real hero. It's no exaggeration to say he was (albeit completely inadvertently) one of THE sporting giants of the 20th century. Where would cricket - or world sport - be today without him & his courage? I've always thought that, in his way, he contributed as much to the dismantling of apartheid as did Mandela. Who can ever forget those momentous days of Aug & Sep '68? THAT innings, & the unbelievable 5th day as the crowd came on to get the pitch playable & the game restarted - imagine that today! That famous photo of the final wkt, then the shock of Dolly's omission. Years later we learnt the sordid details. Brezhnev's tanks in Prague were shocking enough, but the MCC's dithering & Vorster foaming at the mouth had us holding our breath. RIP Dolly

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 16:40 GMT)

Had he started playing tests at 20, would have been the Jacques Kallis of the 1960s. Same strength, same authority playing spin, same nagging medium pace. What a strong side South Africa would have been, having all rounders like Trevor Goddard and Basil D Oliviera. As it is, they were hard to beat in the 1950s and 60s and by 1969-70 were the strongest side in the world before being forced out for the next 22 years. Rest in peace, Basil - we will remember you always.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 16:29 GMT)

world lost a great player of cricket a tribute to the mighty basil d oliviera happy journey to heavens may god grant solace to the departed soul bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by ChobeMonster on (November 19, 2011, 15:52 GMT)

A man of integrity and talent who played the games of cricket and life the right way. RIP.

Posted by tjsimonsen on (November 19, 2011, 14:40 GMT)

A true giant of the game in so many ways. And a HUMAN hero of mine rather than a sports hero. It may almost seem like sacrilege to compare him to the likes of Ghandi and Mandela, yet that is in some way how I see him. Of course, his worldwide influence was less and he didn't suffer in the same ways, but still. I can only hope he himself felt that in the end his fairly long life had been fulfilled - no one can really ask for more than that.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (November 19, 2011, 14:38 GMT)

I think he helped a lot of people find their moral and social compass. More than just a sportsman he was probably the only cricketer to create such a far reaching impact and help create the modern world. Thanks to him we have now seen players like Ntini, Adams, Amla and Prince. Alongside all that he also played some great innings. A sporting legend.

Posted by landl47 on (November 19, 2011, 14:28 GMT)

Dolly didn't play first-class cricket until he was 32 and tests until he was 34. Who knows how good he would have been if he'd had a conventional career? I recall seeing him in a county game in the 1970s, after his test career was over, hitting a ball on to the roof of the old grandstand at Lord's over cover! His own account of his arrival in England, being afraid he was going to be thrown off the subway and seeing white people doing jobs he'd only ever seen non-whites do before (like street-cleaning) was one of the most moving things I've ever read. It's sad that his later years were a struggle. If ever a man deserved to find peace, it was D'Oliveira.

Posted by gudolerhum on (November 19, 2011, 13:46 GMT)

A true gentleman of the game. I had the opportunity of actually playing in a match in which he played when he turned out for an "Old England XI" against The Barbados Wanderers, a team of amateurs of various skills but great enthusiasm. He was a wonderful inspiration to all who watched his career and the role hen played in cricket at that troubled and divisive time. May he rest in peace. My condolences to his family.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 12:52 GMT)

Used to read his exploits through the newspaper The Hindu in my younger days in India. Heros like him made cricket, the game to be loved- Jay

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 12:10 GMT)

As a former Worcestershire fan I would like to add my sympathies to Basil's family. As a teenager, I used to bike from Evesham to Worcester to watch THE team in the mid sixties. Dolly was held in great affection - and like Hicky in later years - I believe ( I speak as an outsider here) he brought much much more to the club than just his brilliant cricket. It's great to see all these memories and insights here - anyone who wants good insight to his story could do worse than check out Peter Oborne's book: BASIL D'OLIVEIRA: Cricket and Conspiracy - The Untold Story. I'm not on commission - or an Oborne relative :) - it's just a damn good read - and is a stark reminder of just how bad things were in the days of apartheid.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 10:55 GMT)

Basil D Olivera as a cricketer was a man of statue but his handling of the then political situation reflects enormous maturity and integrity.The affair resulted in starvation of international cricket for me and thousands of other SAfricans.I think his family can be immensly proud ohim.Now as they weep I am reminded of the hymn Do not stand at the Grave and weep for I am not there. Cricketers and South Africans be proud of this citizen.God bless you.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 10:42 GMT)

RIP. The rise of Mandela can be traced to this great cricketer.

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 19, 2011, 10:40 GMT)

5wombats we must be about the same age. that as just after i went to my 1st test in 1967. he was a gentlman as mike ( thats for sure ) hasman would say. maybe the 1st of our saffers. dpk

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 10:12 GMT)

r.i.p dolly this has come as a shock to me

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 10:07 GMT)

The name fondly mentioned by the captain in 'Fawlty Towers".

Posted by Beertjie on (November 19, 2011, 10:03 GMT)

I remember how proud I was in 1969 seeing him in the flesh in the Lords test v the WI, despite his duck. "Cape Coloured" was a designation of the time, but being his hometown "brother" I felt inspired by his example (lacked the talent, of course). He returned my greeting (humble to the core) and despite never being an England or South African fan, I cheered for my hero. Deepest sympathies to family and close friends. RIP, Bas.

Posted by george204 on (November 19, 2011, 9:55 GMT)

Cricinfo's own profile of Basil D'Oliveira sums him up better than anything I could write: "When you watched 'Dolly' flaying the opposition's bowlers with meaty back-foot clumps, or frustrating their batsmen with outward-drifting medium-pace of cloying accuracy there was one sharp regret ... if only he'd been spotted at 19 rather than 29. Then D'Oliveira would have put the runs and wickets in the book that would have shown future generations what he unmistakably was - one of cricket's greats." RIP.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 9:50 GMT)

My first sight of Dolly was in Nairobi circa 1962 when he played for the World XI and smacked EAfrica XI all over the place with a fast century. Great Cricketer.

Posted by neilwb on (November 19, 2011, 9:44 GMT)

A truly sad day. He was an inspiration to me as a young boy, proving that good will always conquer evil. His was the original 'rags to riches' story but with more significance than most, playing a contributory major role in bringing to an end to apartheid. He maintained his dignity at all times and was badly let down by the cricketing establishment in England, especially the MCC and by the two-faced Colin Cowdrey. He saved his best contributions for England when they were up against it, possibly a reflection of his life. I was fortinate enough to be at Lord's in 1976 for the B&H final, when he badly tore his hamstring. Despite this, he played an innings of 50 when he could hardly walk: he played better on one leg than all of his team-mates on two. He will be sadly missed but his legend will always live on.

Posted by Trapper439 on (November 19, 2011, 9:33 GMT)

I'd previously been completely unaware that he didn't play Tests until he was 34, or that he'd played 44 Tests. By the standards of that time (sadly, a bit before mine) that was a truly impressive late-career impact. I've learned something today. RIP.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 19, 2011, 9:18 GMT)

I saw D'Oliviera play on a number of occasions and, reflecting on those memories, it is impossible to separate the cricketer from the man. Watching him, you became aware of his astonishing story because he personified the triumph of his lonely struggle to break free from the pure evil of the apartheid regime that did its damnable worst to deny him the opportunity to play cricket at any meaningful level. With the support of another great human being, the late John Arlott, he was granted that opportunity and the rest, as we know, is history. Thus, as a player he looked battle-hardened, a thorough professional, there was an economy of effort in his bowling and a visible strength of purpose in his batting where he relied on massive forearms: respectful of the good ball, he'd punish the bad without unnecessary flourish. Through all, his dignity shone. A great man & great cricketer. Heartfelt condolences to his widow and family. You have so much to be proud of: Basil was a man among men.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 9:10 GMT)

My previous contribution was in reaction to an earlier version of this article, which said that his 158 "secured his selection" for the SA tour. It has of course been corrected in the updated version of the article. Martin Williamson's timeline is excellent, as well. Anyway, what a truly dignified man he was. Most of my cricketing heroes are Yorkshiremen, but Basil D'Oliveira was a major exception.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 9:07 GMT)

A good cricketer, i saw him play in the west indies in 1968. RIP

Posted by Doubleheader on (November 19, 2011, 8:57 GMT)


Posted by Biggus on (November 19, 2011, 8:38 GMT)

There goes another one. A most significant player in the history of the game, and not just for his playing.

Posted by BellCurve on (November 19, 2011, 8:14 GMT)

When he was 43 years old he played a full season for Worcestershire and scored 1026 runs at an average of 44.6 and took 40 wickets at an average of 17.42. That's the stuff genuine all-rounder legends are made of. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that a good few people believed that he was not 43 at the time, but 46. Let that serve as inspiration for the current crop of aging superstars. As long as you keep on performing you can keep on playing.

Posted by gujratwalla on (November 19, 2011, 8:09 GMT) of my boyhood favourites...a player of rare courage and patience.A genuine Test all-rounder who served England well in a crisis.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

I will always remember the pleasure of watching Dolly bat. The off-drive that illustrates this article is a good choice: it's pretty much the trademark pose I recall. Good wristy late-cutter, too. But this article skirts around what actually happened in 1968. He had been out of the team for 2 or 3 matches, was recalled for The Oval, scored 158 (it was the match where the crowd helped dry the pitch, when Dolly took the breakthrough wicket that enabled Underwood to wreak havoc on the Aussies in the dying minutes) and was reassured by Cowdrey that he would stick up for him in the South Africa tour Party selection meeting held, I think, that Tuesday evening. But with the MCC kowtowing to Pretoria's Apartheid government, he was NOT selected. There was no sound cricketing reason for this, he SHOULD have been picked on form. he Warwickshire bowler Tom Cartwright backed out through injury, and ONLY THEN was D'Oliveira picked. So the phrase "secured his selection" in this article is misleading.

Posted by 5wombats on (November 19, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

One of my earliest cricket heroes. Being present as a boy to watch his 150 against the Aussies at the Oval in 1968 and watching England go on to win that great game set me up for life as a batsman and cricket follower. I feel very mortal this morning. Our sympathies to his family. Thank you Basil D'Oliveira.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 7:58 GMT)

this has come as a shock to me, rest in peace Basil

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

He was a Great gentleman player. A good alrounder. When he did well for MCC he was dropped as he was coloured, SA was banned. It is all history now. May his soul rest in peace!

Posted by   on (November 19, 2011, 7:12 GMT)

R.I.P another cricketing legend has bid adieu a sad year in deed for cricket as we lost Graham Dilley & M.A.K. Pataudi

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