Every now and then something happens which reminds us of the past, sometimes it's a good memory and we look back with pride and satisfaction, this is how I feel right now as I reflect on the recent death of Basil D'Oliveira We got to know and love this guy for two main reasons, he was a great cricketer and he was instrumental in bringing down the loathsome apartheid Government of South Africa, he never changed even when he was on the front page of every newspaper and on every radio and TV bulletin he was never anything other than gracious and dignified. World shattering events surrounded him as one of the most evil political regimes in history began to topple, he was in the eye of that mighty storm and he was a hero to the Anti Apartheid movement which did so much to destroy that racist system. Despite the turmoil which surrounded him he always gave the impression that he was just taking a stroll to the corner shop to buy a paper.
D'Oliveira's journey from South African shanty towns with terrible facilities for non whites to English Cricket was down in no small way to one of the greatest if not theee greatest sports journalists/commentators of all time John Arlott. His trade mark gravel voice was never more powerful than when he poured scorn and vilification on the South African state and the evils of apartheid. Basil's arrival at London airport highlighted the cultural change he was undergoing, a journalist was sent to the airport to fetch him and he eventually found him lost in the terminal as he searched for the "black/coloured" queues as well as for the "black toilet" he came to top class cricket late in life because it was a white only sport at test level in S.A. but he went all the way to play for England in test matches, he was one of the game's greatest 'all rounders' with an upright stance when batting and a calm style before he whacked the ball with formidable power to the boundary.
England were due to tour S.A. and despite D'Oliveira being an automatic test choice he was not selected, it was political chicanery at the highest level as the MCC selectors bowed to pressure from S.A. and prominent British people as well, all toffs needless to say, Tory Party leader Sir Alec Douglas Home flew down from his Scottish estate to lobby MCC selectors not to pick him. Prior to the tour taking place an English player called off injured and the uproar this time was such that they had to pick him. The racist South Africans cancelled the tour and at the same time shot off their own toes.
The anti apartheid movement were fed a ticking time bomb which was now ready to explode in the faces of the sports mad white Afrikaners, the world was appalled and very soon a massive sporting boycott was up and running. The boost that we all got in the anti apartheid movement was hard to believe S.A. was now treated like a pariah and it is now looked back on as the beginning of the end for white supremacists in that country.
I use the fight against apartheid when I think about injustice in the world. We were told we could never win but we did, Civil Rights in America and Northern Ireland? It will never happen, but it did. We are told now that Israel will never budge over Palestinian rights but they will. Just like the other odious despotic regimes through history it will happen, we have to keep on the fight, we must.
In Test matches in South Africa today the sides compete for the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy. He deserves to rest in peace.