This is turning out to be a sad month for cricket fans, for today saw the death of legendary all-rounder Basil D’Oliveira. “Dolly”, as he was affectionately known, was born in South Africa but was unable to play first-class cricket there because of the apartheid regime’s policy of racial segregation; as a “Cape Coloured” he wasn’t allowed to play what was basically a whites-only game. He emigrated to England in 1960 and was subsequently picked to play for England and quickly established himself as an excellent player at Test level. Selected basically as a batting all-rounder, and usually coming in between 5 and 7 in the order, his average was over 40, and he scored 5 centuries in 44 Test matches in a career that lasted from 1966 to 1972. These are impressive figures, especially considering that his Test career didn’t even start until he was in his mid-thirties.
His selection (as a late replacement) for the England side that was to tour South Africa in 1968 precipitated the D’Oliveira Affair, which led to South Africa being ostracised from international cricket until the end of apartheid in the 1990s. Although this episode must have been personally distressing for him, D’Oliveira behaved with great courage and dignity throughout and won many admirers on and off the field, and the warmth of the tributes being paid in today’s media demonstrate the high regard in which he was held by cricketers, fans of the sport, and by campaigners against racism.
Rest in peace, Basil D’Oliveira (1931-2011), one of the true gentlemen of cricket.Follow @telescoper