19 November 2011

Basil D’Oliveira dies at the age of 80

He was a world-class cricketer well known for the 1968 ‘D'Oliveira affair', which was centred around his inclusion in the England squad for the South African tour. His inclusion was against the apartheid laws and the tour was subsequently cancelled.

Basil was born in Cape Town and his cricket prowess saw him captain the South African non-white cricket team and he also played football on the side.

He was classified as "coloured" in race, in accordance with the apartheid government's Race Classification Act - albeit being of Indian-Portuguese descent.

In 1960, he emigrated to England where he joined a Middleton cricket club, which was made possible through the help of members and supporters of the St. Augustine's Cricket Club in Cape Town. They realised that he stood a better chance of succeeding overseas, where there were no discriminatory laws based on race. In the same year, he also became a British citizen and settled there.

Basil battled with Parkinson's disease for quite some time before succumbing to death on November 19, 2011. He is survived by his wife Naomi and son Damian, who was also a first-class cricketer. His grandson, Brett D'Oliveira, has also been contracted to the Worcestershire Cricket Club and made his debut earlier this year.

Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola, was quoted as saying, "He was a man of true dignity and a wonderful role model as somebody who overcame the most extreme prejudices and circumstances to take his rightful place on the world stage," commenting on Basil's passing on the News24 website.

Basil d'Oliveira is honoured in the trophy that bears his name that the Proteas squad and England compete for in every test series between the two countries. The Proteas have held the trophy since 2008.

D'Oliveira is also one of the icons honoured in the Sunday Times Heritage Project, visit his memorial page here.

His life story is chronicled in SAHA's publication - ‘Great Lives: Pivotal Moments' as well.

You can read this SAHA article for more insight on SA's sport battles under apartheid laws:

World Cup 2010: Soccer and human rights