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Basil D'Oliveira: Cricket & Controversy By Peter Oborne

Release date: 20th September, 2008
Publisher: Sphere Books

List Price: £10.99
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Basil D'Oliveira: Cricket & Controversy
By Peter Oborne

Sports book of the month price: £8.46, saving 23% on rrp

Basil D'Oliveira, who died aged 80 last Saturday, was a modest, dignified man and a wonderfully talented cricketer who, unable to play top level cricket in his native South Africa because of that nation's odious apartheid regime, was given his chance in England, for whom he went on to play 44 times. Though 'Dolly' an exceptional cricketer, however, his innate ability was eclipsed by a legacy that gave him a unique place in sporting history.

Peter Oborne's award-winning book was published several years ago, but it remains a powerful tale of how D'Oliveira became the first non-white South African in county cricket and of the role he played in the banning of South Africa from international cricket.

Thankfully, the book is still in print; it's a truly inspirational story of a determined sportsman whose first-class career couldn't start until he was 32.

Oborne is essentially a political writer, but Basil D'Oliveira's story is so entwined with the politics of the sixties that the author's expertise helps guide the reader through a remarkable period in sporting history.

D'Oliveira hit an astonishing 80 centuries on non-white South Africa's rough pitches before writing to BBC cricket commentator John Arlott as he sought an opening as a cricketer in England. Arlott used his contacts to find him a place at Lancashire League club Middleton, but the club couldn't really afford him and 'Dolly' had to rely, initially at least, on friends in South Africa for donations in order to make ends meet.

In 1964, he joined Worcestershire and helped them retain the county championship the following year. He made a century on his first class debut and a second in his next match. In total, he scored 43 first class hundreds.

Selected to tour South Africa with the MCC in 1968, the South African prime minister John Vorster called the tour off, affronted by the presence of a non-white in the MCC party. As a result, apartheid's inherent wickedness was widely exposed to a British electorate who could do something about it.

Basil D'Oliveira guaranteed himself a place in sporting history not just because of his on-field exploits, but for the way in which his quiet determination caused a political revolution. Few other sportsmen can boast such a significant legacy.


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