We commemorate Basil D’Oliveira who would’ve turned 85 years today and is our Legend of the Week.
D’Oliveira, aka ‘Dolly’, will always be remembered as the cricketer who was excluded from playing top-class cricket in South Africa because he was a Cape Colored. Due to Apartheid, he was forced to leave SA to pursue his cricketing career. England was his choice of destination and soon his talent shone through. As a 29-year-old, he joined Worcestershire in league cricket in 1960. His performances were duly noted and he earned himself an England debut against West Indies just four years later. He went on to play 44 Test matches for England scoring 2 484, including five hundreds and 15 half-centuries. What emphasised his legendary status for England is the fact that his best performances came against their bitter rivals, Australia, scoring two centuries against them which included a victory where he recorded his career-best 158. He also managed to take 47 wickets for his adopted country.
On England’s tour to South Africa in 1968-69, he was left out of the squad only to be called up to replace the injured Tom Cartwight at a later stage. This was to no prevail, as the Apartheid government made it clear that he was not welcome in the country which forced the cancelation of the tour, sparking off a 25-year isolation from international cricket for SA. This controversy should not hinder the greatness of one of England’s greats, who in his short career helped his side to 17 wins, 21 draws and only six losses.
D’Oliveira’s legacy will live on long after his death on November 19 2011. His son, Damian D’Oliveira, went on to have a 13-year career for Worcestershire scoring 9 504 including 10 centuries and 46 half-centuries with a high score of 257. In his 234 matches played he took 55 wickets continuing the all-round mould his father left behind.
The mantel has now been passed down to Dolly’s grandson, Brett D’Oliveira, who is currently playing a useful role for the club that gave his grandfather the chance to live his dream as a professional cricketer.
Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images