Basil D’Oliveira is one of the greatest cricket players ever to come out of South Africa. He was a tremendous batsman who regularly tore opposition bowling attacks apart with genuine stoke play and an amazing eye for a cricket ball. What made him an even greater asset to any team he played for was the fact that he was a useful bowler as well. D’Oliveira was a real match winner.
Probably the saddest aspect of D’Oliveira’s career, from a spectator’s point of view, was the time period in which he played. He was in his prime as a cricket player during the period when South Africa was in isolation and unable to play international cricket. The strict laws implemented by the Apartheid government meant that D’Oliveira was never given the recognition he deserved as a South African cricketer. D’Oliveira was honoured when he was asked to captain a South African XI to play in a test match against Kenya. Many people believe that this was the first real South African eleven as the team was selected along non-racial lines. Despite this, the player had to venture overseas to have a substantial international career.
After many years of trying to get a place in an English cricket club D’Oliveira was eventually given his opportunity at the age of twenty-eight. He initially played for the Middleton club before entering the ranks of Worcestershire. However, these were just steppingstones on route to playing international test cricket for England. The time would eventually come for D’Oliveira to entertain the world as the great player he was. D’Oliveira was able to secure a test batting average over 40 with a top score of 158, not bad for late starter in terms of international careers.
Basil D’Oliveira is testament to the notion that hard work and perseverance pays off. Had he given up after being rejected in his first attempts at trying to get a spot at an English club the world may never have had the pleasure of watching one of the finest cricketers in action. Who knows what D’Oliveira may have achieved had all players been given equal opportunity in South Africa when he was in his prime as a batsman.
For more information on Basil D’Oliveira read Basil D’Oliveira a biography by Peter Oborne published by Time Warner Books.