Basil D Oliveira was one of the most distinguished Test cricketers of the 1960s. He passed away on 20th November 2011 at the age of 81.
In fact, it was the denial by the racist South African government's refusal to accept him as a member of the MCC team scheduled to visit that country in 1968, which ultimately led the ICC to withdraw South Africas Test status. Until then South Africa was rigidly following an apartheid policy, their status was only restored after Nelson Mandela became their President.
Undoubtedly D'Oliveira was a tremendous character, he bore the stress being at the center of the row over cancellation of the MCC tour in a dignified manner which earned him great praise and was later awarded with an MBE.
Some impression of his humble nature can be gauged from the preface of his autobiography 'Time To Declare' where he noted that "a lot of people know about me for events that happened off the cricket field but I can't really complain for I hope somehow my own life has helped the cause of racial tolerance".
I had an opportunity to watch D'Oliveira while he accompanied the visiting Commonwealth team to play in a three-day match against BCCP XI at Hyderabad in November 1963. Pakistan team at that time was in a rehabilitation process after their disastrous tour of England in 1962. His notable scores on that tour were 115 Vs Governors XI at Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) and unbeaten 83 against Presidents XI at Rawalpindi.
Earlier DOliveira, a South African native, born to Indian parentage, had first come to England to join Middleton in the central Lancashire league and later made his county debut for Worcestershire. He made his Test debut against the West Indies at Trent Bridge in 1966 scoring 76 & 54, this was followed by another fifty (88) at Headingley. At the same ground in the next series he notched up his maiden Test century (109) against India.
His performance particularly in 9 Tests against Pakistan was pretty remarkable. In 1967 against Hanif Mohammads visiting team he scored useful innings of 59 & 81 not out in the drawn game at Lords.
DOliveira again toured Pakistan with Colin Cowdreys visiting MCC team in 1969. On that occasion, Dhaka (the 2nd last Test as part of Pakistan) he saved the visitors from a complete embarrassment scoring 114* out of the teams total of 274 in the first innings, when at one stage they had collapsed to 130-7. Earlier D'Oliveira had also notched up an unbeaten 102 in the match against Central Zone at Lyallpur. Two years later on Pakistan's teams tour to England in 1971 D'Oliveira's magnificent knocks of 74 & 71 were instrumental in bringing the home team a narrow yet suppressing victory in the third and final Test at Headingley, which also ultimately brought them the series win.
In a Test career spanning over six years (1966 to 1972), he scored 2484 runs (avg 40.06) in 44 Tests, with the help of five hundreds (109 v India, 114* v Pakistan, 158 & 117 v Australia and 100 v New Zealand) and 15 half centuries: v Pakistan (59, 81, 73, 74 & 72), vs West indies (76, 54, 88, 57 & 51), v Australia (87, 57, 56 & 50) and New Zealand (58). He also claimed 47 Wickets and held 29 catches.
Alas! Such a great legend has passed away, whose memories will always be cherished in the hearts of cricket lovers the world over. He will be long remembered.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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