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Basil D'Oliveira
November 20, 2011 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Cricketer Basil D'Oliveira Has Died. "In 1968 he was named in England's squad to tour South Africa which was then cancelled as the ruling National Party refused to accept his presence."

"The headlines made by D'Oliveira in 1968 marked the start of South Africa's sporting isolation.

After being added to the England squad as a replacement for the injured Tom Cartwright the South African government made it clear a 'Cape coloured' would not be welcome."

BBC Cricket correspondent Jonathan "Aggers" Agnew's Tribute.

RIP.
posted by marienbad (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Renoroc at 7:22 AM on November 20, 2011


The Telegraph carries an excellent obituary here:

"Often, Basil felt despair because he sensed that he would never have a chance to test what he knew was a prodigious talent. But sometimes he would listen on the BBC World Service to the commentaries of the great broadcaster John Arlott. There was something about the humanity of Arlott’s Hampshire burr and something so poetic about his gift for words that inexpressibly moved young Basil. One day, he was inspired to write John Arlott a letter, in green ink and halting prose, explaining his predicament and diffidently asking him if there might be any chance of making a life as a cricketer in England.

It speaks volumes for the calibre of John Arlott that he didn’t just take time to read this letter, but that he should act upon it. Taking infinite pains, and after many setbacks, Arlott found D’Oliveira a job as a professional in the Lancashire league club of Middleton"

I find this anecdote supremely inspiring.
posted by rahulrg at 7:27 AM on November 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by jquinby at 7:53 AM on November 20, 2011


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posted by scruss at 7:58 AM on November 20, 2011


I'd never heard this story. How extraordinary.
posted by dismas at 8:01 AM on November 20, 2011


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posted by Mister Bijou at 8:06 AM on November 20, 2011


Not so much died as gone to join the cricket immortals.
posted by Segundus at 8:16 AM on November 20, 2011


Is it as preposterous as it sounds that he was playing county cricket into his 50's?
posted by JPD at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2011


That's a great story, even if I seem incapable of understanding cricket. I even watched the entirety of Lagaan (224 minutes!), and anything beyond the broadest outline of the rules escapes me.

On a slightly more serious tack, I think it's interesting how sports seems to be a venue for the reduction of racial bigotry. I guess it's hard to cheer for a player while simultaneously despising him. (I realize that this is somewhat problematic, but it seems to be a real general trend.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cricinfo has the story in his own words, taken from his autobiography.

(I love the fact that he deliberately got out in a county game because he wanted to listen to the team being announced).
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:24 AM on November 20, 2011


Is it as preposterous as it sounds that he was playing county cricket into his 50's?

Unusual and very impressive, but not totally unheard of, especially in his time. These days, plenty of players last into their 40s (Mark Ramprakash is 42, for example). Cricinfo's list of oldest test players has several playing into their 50s (with tests obviously being harder than county cricket - D'Oliveira played tests until he was 40).
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2011


sports seems to be a venue for the reduction of racial bigotry

delete if this is a derail, but I think the obit here sort of nails why that is. So much bigotry is justified by an argument that a race or group of people is somehow intrinsically inferior. Sports are an arena that provides objective evidence that puts the lie to those arguments.

There is the famous story that Bear Bryant at Alabama scheduled USC with Sam Cunningham back in the 1970 because he wanted to start recruiting African-Americans and he wanted his teams supporters to see 'Bama get pummeled by an A-A running back. The next year he had his first scholarship non-white player. Seems crazy it took that long of course, but still a story none the less.
posted by JPD at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What was D'Oliveira's heritage? When I first saw his picture on the BBC I assumed he was Indian. Was that one of South Africa's non-white races?
posted by Partario at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2011


Partario - his name could be of Keralan origin.

Apartheid lumped people who were non-black and non-white under the term "cape coloured", which was marginally above "black" in the pecking order and some distance from "white".
posted by MuffinMan at 9:40 AM on November 20, 2011


Guardian obituary and pictures.
RIP Dolly; you were one this 60's schoolboy heroes.
posted by adamvasco at 10:28 AM on November 20, 2011


Paging John Terry.
posted by seanyboy at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously on MeFi.

Wisden's 1967 Cricketer of the Year; the timeline of the scandal.

The Guardian's 1968 column on his non-selection:
His behaviour in what might have been difficult situations has always been impeccably dignified and courteous [...] no one of open mind will believe that he was left out for valid cricket reasons: there are figures and performances less than a week old - including a century yesterday - to refute such an argument. This may prove, perhaps to the surprise of M C C, far more than a sporting matter. It could have such repercussions on British relations with the coloured races of the world that the cancellation of a cricket tour would seem a trifling matter compared with an apparent British acceptance of apartheid.
posted by rodgerd at 11:12 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I first saw his picture on the BBC I assumed he was Indian. Was that one of South Africa's non-white races?

Partario - his name could be of Keralan origin.

Apartheid lumped people who were non-black and non-white under the term "cape coloured", which was marginally above "black" in the pecking order and some distance from "white".


Oliviero would be a Goan/Portuguese derived surname. However, while Indians were indeed one of South Africa's official races, the Cape Coloured are officially those who were of mixed blood. So Oliviero could as likely be of mixed Portuguese/Bantu heritage with no Indian blood in him, since on the west coast of southern Africa, like in Angola, the Portuguese were not as strict about miscegenation as the South African whites.
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2011


(While it's not hugely unusual for him to have been playing county cricket in his 50s, it was incredible that his average across 44 tests was in the 40.06, because he lied about his age to play in England; no-one's entirely sure, but it's likely he started his test career sometime in his late thirties, perhaps at 38, when most players have retired from international cricket, and maintained superb form into his forties.)
posted by rodgerd at 11:17 AM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


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One of the greats.

I'm a (white) South African whose 'coloured' relatives suffered unspeakable indignities during the Apartheid era. And while I'll probably never truly grasp the impact the segregation and descrimination had on the lives of the people I love, Dolly will forever be considered a hero chez Dilettante for his role - however unwitting - in drawing international attention to the oppressive policies of the National government.

(BTW, Muffinman and infini, the general term for people of mixed race in South Africa was/is simply 'coloured'. 'Cape coloured' specifically refers to a subset of people from the Western Cape, who have a distinctive culture and dialect.)
posted by tuckshopdilettante at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2011


As John Thicknesse notes in his Cricinfo profile "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." The ironic thing about the whole apartheid saga was that it also cost some of the greatest white cricketers ever to play the game - Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards and Mike Proctor for example - the stellar test careers they also deserved.
posted by joannemullen at 12:55 AM on November 21, 2011


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posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:53 AM on November 21, 2011


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