Test cricket legend Basil D'Oliveira has died at the age of 80.
Nicknamed ‘Dolly,’ D’Oliveira suffered from Parkinson’s disease and his health had been in decline for several years.
The former England all-rounder was born in South Africa, but emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1960 due to the lack of opportunities for non-white cricketers in his native country.
In honor of D’Oliveira, South African and Australian cricketers stood in silence for one minute before the start of the third day of the second and final Test at the Wanderers Stadium, in Johannesburg on Saturday.
South African batsmen Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph wore black armbands in tribute to D’Oliveira.
By 1968, after eight years rising through the ranks of English cricket, D’Oliveira was at the center of an international controversy when, as a member of the England squad scheduled to tour South Africa, the refusal by the National Party to accept his presence led to a cancellation of the tour. The Pretoria government has classified the mixed-race D’Oliveira as a ‘Cape Coloured.’
This incident led to South Africa’s increasing isolation in the global sporting world – a prohibition that would last until the fall of Apartheid in the early 1990s.
Over his career, D'Oliveira played county cricket for Worcestershire from 1964-80 and represented England in 44 Tests, scoring 2,484 runs.
Cricket South Africa [CSA] chief executive Gerald Majola praised D’Oliveira
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, he said in a statement.
His memory and inspiration will live on among all of us. On behalf of the CSA family I would like to convey our sympathies to his family and salute them on a life well lived.
Mac Maharaj, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman and a former anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island told media: “[D’Oliveira’s] rejection from South Africa demonstrated the intransigence of the apartheid government and the open arms of the world to those who fought against apartheid in all of its forms. Basil had to make his life in cricket by leaving his birthplace.”
Maharaj added: “The British gave him a home when apartheid South Africa rejected him. We heard the news about England pulling out of the South Africa tour in Robben Island. Basil’s stand confirmed the justness of our cause and reinforced our determination. It was really very heartening and an inspiration to us. Our attachment to Basil grew because he became a symbol of the struggle.”
In January 2000, South African cricket honored D’Oliveira by naming him among the nominees for South African Cricketer of the Century.
Ironically, the D'Oliveira Trophy is now the prize handed out to the winner of Test Series when England plays South Africa.
Milton Nkosi, BBC correspondent in Johannesburg, wrote: “D'Oliveira was a man who proved the doctrine of racial prejudice wrong. [He] shook the very foundations of apartheid racist theory. When the white minority regime said black people were not fit to play alongside their white counterparts, Basil displayed an amazing talent for the sport. The Pretoria government's refusal in 1968 to allow him to play in a Test series cranked up the anti-apartheid call for a sports ban. Ironically, D'Oliveira was not being barred from playing for his country of birth -- he was deprived from playing for England, who had taken him in after he was shown no appreciation at home. The tour was cancelled and consequently the sporting world was galvanized to boycott apartheid South Africa.”
Nkosi added: 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 worldwide respect and admiration.
Professor Andre Odendaal, author of The Story of an African Game, also praised D’Oliveira.
“Any young South African who loved cricket and sport knew about him and had all sorts of opinions about it,” he told reporters.
“What he did changed the world that South Africans knew, it was a defining moment, the beginning of the change in balance of power in South Africa. Everyone now says they were against apartheid but the cricket establishment was working with the government to keep blacks out.”