Basil D'Oliveira dies aged 80

 

South Africa-born former England all-rounder Basil D'Oliveira has died at the age of 80.

D'Oliveira made headlines in 1968 when he was included in the England squad for the tour of South Africa which had to be called off as the South African government refused to accept his presence.

The incident marked the start of South Africa's cricketing isolation.

CSA chief executive Gerald Majola led the tributes to D'Oliveira, whose health had been deteriorating for some time leading up to his death in England.

"'Dolly', as he was known around the world by an audience that went far beyond the game of cricket, was a true legend and a son of whom all South Africans can be extremely proud," Majola said.

"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."

D'Oliveira starred in Cape Town club cricket in his home country but found his path to the top of the game blocked in apartheid-era South Africa.

He moved to England at the urging of cricket commentator John Arlott and fought his way through the ranks to earn a place in the national side, where he went on to shine on the international stage after making his debut in 1966.

He scored 2484 runs at an average of 40, and took 47 wickets in 44 Tests.

His most famous innings saw him score 158 against Australia at The Oval in the 1968 Ashes, a tally that should have sealed his place in the tour of South Africa that would never take place.

He was initially left out of the side after pressure was exerted by the South African authorities, but after he was called in due to an injury to Tom Cartwright, the tour had to be cancelled.

Majola continued: "The fact that he could have a Test career batting average of 40 in 44 Tests and an economy rate of less than two with the ball on his way to 47 wickets was remarkable considering he was past his prime when he made his debut for England in his mid-30s.

"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.

"I would like to pay tribute also to all those people in England, notably John Arlott, one of the greatest cricket radio commentators of all time, for the roles they played in making it possible for Basil to achieve his dream of playing international cricket for his adopted country.

"The circumstances surrounding his being prevented from touring the country of his birth with England in 1968 led directly to the intensification of opposition to apartheid around the world and contributed materially to the sports boycott that turned out to be an Achilles heel of the apartheid government.

"Throughout this shameful period in South Africa's sporting history, Basil displayed a human dignity that earned him worldwide respect and admiration.

"His memory and inspiration will live on among all of us.

"On a personal note I would like to thank him for the contribution he made to my own career at the Coca-Cola coaching clinics.

"On behalf of the CSA family I would like to convey our sympathies to his family and salute them on a life well lived."

Former Worcestershire and England team-mate Tom Graveney paid tribute to his close friend on Sky Sports News.

"It's terrible news to me because Basil was one of the my best friends," Graveney said.

"We met because we were on a tour of Pakistan tougether and I persuaded him to come to Worcester in 1962. He had to serve a year playing in the second XI and then came straight into the first class game and was an immediate success and a wonderful character as well."

Graveney recalled that D'Oliveira had been in tears when he was initially left out of the team for the tour of his homeland.

"I can remember saying, 'If he doesn't go, I'm not going' because we were such great friends and he'd done everything to go and get back into the team, so it was politics I'm afraid," he said. "It was very sad."

Had politics not intervened, Graveney said D'Oliveira would be primarily remembered for his outstanding skill as a batsman.

"He was a very good all-rounder," 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." PA

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