Saturday, November 19, 2011

Remembering Basil D'Oliveira: 1931 - 2011

I have a vague memory of a visit by Basil D’Oliveira to my primary school when I was just a single digit lad.

Few of the kids knew why he was there and even fewer, I would imagine, knew who he was.

Though I must say that I just got off the phone with my boy Cliff and he remembers Mr. D'Oliveira was called "Dolly" and that he handed out autographed photos to the kids at the schools he visited in Kimberley that day when we were about 7 or 8 years old.

In the years after my tender digits I grew to understand that the apartheid system barred him from playing cricket because he was coloured.

He immigrated to Britain where he had an illustrious career even though he was in his 30s and considered past his cricketing prime.

Basil M D'Oliveira
Yesterday I watched South Africa play Australia on the idiot box and felt a little proud of the way our team battled to get back into the second test in Joburg.

There are a few prominent faces of color in our team now even though there is a lot of room for normalizing the code - perhaps even more than rugby.

Mr. D'Oliveira  must have watched the changes in South African cricket over the last decade or more.  I am sure that he must have been proud of the contribution he made to forcing apartheid South Africa out of international cricket from 1968 onwards.

Cricket fans will remember that he was banned from playing cricket in South Africa when England was set to tour in 1968/69.

The apartheid regime told England that if Mr. D'Oliveira was in the team they would not be allowed to tour South Africa.

England refused to back down after a series of negotiations.  The apartheid regime under Prime Minister BJ Voster remained adamant not giving an inch.

The series was then canceled and the incident went on to be a turning point in the international sporting boycott of South Africa.

South Africa named Mr. D'Oliveira one of its ten-best cricketers of the century in 2000 even though he never played for South Africa.

Test series between South Africa and England are contested for the "Basil D'Oliveira Trophy" since 2004.

When I think of figures like Mr. D'Oliveira it causes me to wonder about the thousands upon thousands of black/brown South Africans who were denied a chance to follow their dreams because of the color of their skin.

I expect that I am not alone among those who can remember living in a country where skin color even decided the kind of work you could do.

For this reason remembering Mr. D'Oliveira is more than just a single memory of one of crickets finest.

May Basil D'Oliveira rest in peace until that day.


Picture Credit


Kweli said...

Onward indeed!
Thanks for remembering, brother.

The struggle is pretty layered. It's ridiculous that England (England!) at the time was appealing against his ban and arguing that he should participate in that match against SA.

Eish, that just shows you how low apartheid stoops -- no need to use the past tense here.

Ridwan said...

Hi Kweli:

England was not all that principled on the matter brother.

He was not initially included in the team until someone got hurt.

Some observers say his initial exclusion was in part about sensitivity to what may happen in SA.

They included him and seemed somewhat in two minds until the press started pushing buttons.

But yeah the struggle is indeed layered.

They had a minute of silence for him today before the Test between SA and Australia.

Good thing was that SA had a great day batting and the best batsman today was Hashim Amla (a player of color and bearded Muslim too for those who may be wondering).

Peace to you Kweli,