Very sad this morning to hear of the death of Basil D’Oliveira. A fine cricketer, and a giant of a man who carried himself with the sort of dignity that the cricket administrators and white supremacist South Africans couldn’t even dream about.
Dolly’s place in history waasealed when he was left out of the England party to tour South Africa in 1968-9 although he had finished the Summer with a big century against the Aussies in the final test match. Despite the furore this created, the old boys club which ran the MCC justified their decision on the spurious grounds that his bowling was not good enough for South African wickets. When Warwickshire’s Tom Cartwright dropped out of the squad the MCC knew the game was up, and they had no choice but to include D’Oliveira in the squad.
The Vorster government refused to accept his inclusion in the squad, and the sporting boycott of South Africa, disgracefully ignored by some, particularly the Rugby Union establishment, started to chip away at the foundations of apartheid.
My favourite anecdote concerning Dolly, which is almost certainly apocryphal, concerned a time he came out to bat with Sir Geoffrey in a game when England were struggling against the Indian spinners and were about four wickets down for not many. Dolly worked out that if you batted slightly out of the crease and took a big step down the wicket, you could nullify the spin and try and hold out until lunch. He walked down the wicket and shared this information with Boycs who was at the other end, not out for a handful of runs. “I know” said the dogged Yorkshireman, “but don’t tell the others will you!”
Farewell, Dolly, one of South Africa’s greatest ever cricketers, and the best one never to play for them, you played a great a innings.