Basil D’Oliveira dies at 80

South Africa-born former England all-rounder Basil D’Oliveira, subject of one of cricket’s biggest controversies, has died aged 80, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said on Saturday.

D’Oliveira’s health has been deteriorating for some time, Cricket South Africa (CSA) said on its website without sharing further details.

Fondly called Dolly, the coloured D’Oliveira emigrated to England where he enjoyed a distinguished career as an all-rounder, playing 44 Test and four one-day internationals.

England cancelled their 1968 South Africa tour when the ruling National Party objected to D’Oliveira’s presence in the team.

No official team from any country subsequently toured South Africa until apartheid was abolished following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.

“Dolly … was a true legend and a son of whom all South Africans can be extremely proud”, commented CSA CEO Gerald Majola.

“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 … the fact that he could have a Test career batting average of 40 in 44 Tests and an economy rate of less than 2 with the ball on his way to 47 wickets was remarkable considering he was past his prime when he made his debut for England in his mid-30s … one can only imagine what he might have achieved had he made his debut as he should have done at the age of 20 on South Africa’s tour of England in 1951,” Majola said.

He added: “I would like to pay tribute also to all those people in England, notably John Arlott, one of the greatest cricket radio commentators of all time, for the roles they played in making it possible for Basil to achieve his dream of playing international cricket for his adopted country … the circumstances surrounding his being prevented from touring the country of his birth with England in 1968 led directly to the intensification of opposition to apartheid around the world and contributed materially to the sports boycott that turned out to be an Achilles’ Heel of the apartheid government.”

“Throughout this shameful period in South Africa’s sporting history Basil displayed a human dignity that earned him world-wide respect and admiration … his memory and inspiration will live on among all of us.” — Reuters, Sapa

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