Non-white cricketers like Hashim Amla & Makhaya Ntini owe a debt of gratitude to the late Basil Dâ Oliveira for representing South Africa at the highest level of the game © Getty Images
Non-white cricketers like Hashim Amla & Makhaya Ntini owe a debt of gratitude to the late Basil Dâ Oliveira for representing South Africa at the highest level of the game © Getty Images

 

By David Green

 

It’s not been a good few weeks for cricket. First Graham Dilley, then Peter Roebuck and now Basil D’Oliveira – like Dilley another favourite son of Worcestershire.

 

We are too young to have seen D’Oliveira play, but his record speaks for itself. He averaged over 40 with the bat in his 44 Tests – a record all the more impressive given that he didn’t make his debut until he was 35. He also scored nearly 20,000 runs and took over 500 wickets in first-class cricket.

 

But stats only tell half the story with D’Oliveira, who was the catalyst for the sporting ban that was belatedly the fate of South Africa due to its vile Apartheid regime.

 

The South Africans refused to countenance D’Oliveira – a Cape Coloured by birth – as part of the MCC squad to tour their country in 1968 and this self-inflicted wound led to their eventual banishment from world sport.

 

Many argue that sport and politics shouldn’t mix, but as Scyld Berry thoughtfully argued in the Daily Telegraph: “History may well decide that the lives of millions of non-white South Africans would have been made wretched for even longer but for Basil D’Oliveira.”

 

A poignant reminder for present-day South Africa and perhaps an indication of the debt of gratitude that the likes of Hashim Amla and Makhaya Ntini owe the dignified and brave D’Oliveira.

(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)