BASIL D’Oliveira died on November 19. I remember him because of the fact that he was a principal actor in what was the first international series of cricket which I followed on the radio. Later, when I was much older, I realised the significance of the role that he had played in exposing apartheid for the evil it is.
The year was 1968 and I was 11 years old. Back then Sri Lanka — which was known as Ceylon — was not yet an international cricket-playing country. That would take another 13 years. But the interest in the game was phenomenal, so much so that the local radio station was able to find a sponsor to cover the charges of broadcasting BBC commentary on the Ashes series that year.
Before the series even began, the South African prime minister John Vorster had told Lord Cobham, a past president of the MCC, at that time the body administering the game in England, that if D’Oliveira was selected for the forthcoming tour of South Africa, the tour would be cancelled.
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