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Basil D'Oliveira: Cricket and Controversy Paperback – 7 Apr 2005
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It is an inspirational story and one which never fails to move this reader (Michael Parkinson, DAILY TELEGRAPH)
Oborne tells this remarkable story with the tautness of a thriller and the focus of a political tract. If you are at all interested in either cricket or humanity, I guarantee that you will read his book at one sitting. (Peter Wilby, NEW STATESMAN)
It is a masterpiece of research and reconstruction of the most significant sporting uprising of our times (DAILY MAIL)
As this stunning book makes very clear, principled people acting together can sniff out the essential truth and make the difference. Read it and risk being inspired to do the same. (IRELAND TRIBUNE)
* WINNER OF THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2004
* Controversial and revelatory biography of the South African-born cricketer who played for England and was banned from touring his native country
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In the writing of four autobiographical volumes, (none of which I have yet read) Mr D’Oliveira has demonstrated that he really cared and that, arguably unbeknownst to him, his spirit lives on.
Peter Oborne in 2004 wrote a biography that is exhaustive and that does justice to Basil’s deeds on and off the cricket field and indeed to his lasting memory.
His family name lives on through son Damian and grandson Brett, the former who was a player and coach for Worcester like his dad and the latter who has just kicked off his career with the same county.
The Apartheid movement and the opposition thereto will always find a place in memory and moreover in South African history.
Those cricketers like Barry Richards, Mike Proctor and Eddie Barlow were the innocent victims just as, to a more severe extent were the black and coloured people who used to have to pile into standing-room-only segregated cages to watch them.
The politicking at Lord’s via the MCC and the activists like Blairite Peter Hain – these people deserve little dignity since they showed all too little of this quality, in contrast to the cape-coloured cricketer who had it in spades. The under-handedness must now be a source of regret to those that remain, as this book chronicles how nasty it all became.
What never ceased to amaze me was that at the high pressure, indeed, inflection points of the numerous ructions, D’Oliveira’s cricketing performance seemed to peak, scoring runs and taking wickets with alacrity.
Those who know the heavy, armed conflict, one on one between batsman and bowler (which I do not pretend to) will realise that these performances were phenomenally brave and an example to all, especially younger people and younger still cricketers.
The power of sport to transcend ever-greedy and self-serving politics is and was in the 1960s invigorating. The articulate genius that was John Arlott brings back memories of great men. Arlott’s support of Basil was loyal and perpetual.
People then as now, didn’t really see the enormity of what was happening in South Africa before their very eyes. What this book does is rekindle the memories, the blessed truths and the conniving falsehoods for us all, and I really savoured the experience.
Thank you Peter Oborne, and thank you broadcasting entrepreneur Michael Grade, for recommending it to me on the radio one night (very late!).
14th March 2017
In this biography, Oborne draws upon state documents, together with D’Oliveira’s own reflections, to unpick the murky machinations of the British and South African governments and cricket authorities. It is accessibly written and draws sensible judgements. A brilliant sports book with wider themes.
His achievements were staggering as were the political machinations employed to ensure the cancellation of the MCC tour to South Africa once he was belatedly selected in 1968 after Tom Cartwright's convenient injury. The most telling fact was that Basil was really a contemporary of an earlier generation of cricketers such as Hutton, Compton and Bailey yet he made his name in his early to mid thirties long after they had disappeared from the scene.
This is a humbling story of greatness and prejudice expertly researched and told by an excellent journalist and writer.
That he survived great traumas, in South Africa and England, is a testimony to a great sportsman and a man with great strength of character. Read this book and you will learn a lot - it is one of, if not the, best books about sport that I have read.
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