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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1000


Mr SECKER (BarkerOpposition Whip) (13:00): I thank the member for Banks for bringing this motion before the parliament. Some might wonder why you would talk about a sportsperson, but Basil D'Oliveira actually changed the world and had a great effect, through sport and through his political involvement, in what happened in South Africa. So this is a very important motion to commemorate him in this parliament.

For Basil D'Oliveira, affectionately known by his friends as Dolly, his introduction as the first non-white South African in English county cricket was itself a breakthrough. Through his role in having South Africa banned from international sport, and up until his recent death due to Parkinson's disease, he led an extraordinary life and was humble from start to finish. He was a great cricketer whose career could have been greater were it not curtailed by the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa. Beyond cricket, in unintentional ways he raised awareness of the oppressive apartheid regime, which led to South Africa's international ban from sport.

Basil D'Oliveira never revealed his date of birth. Had he done so, he would not have been selected to play cricket in the UK for Middleton, Worcestershire or England. Had he let it be known that he was born earlier than the date of 1931 that he officially gave, he would not have got his league cricket start at the age of 32 or 33. He did not qualify for Worcestershire until 34 or, so he was still a bit of a mystery, and did not play for the England team until he was 38 or maybe 39. Of course, he played until he was 45. These days people would say that is a bit old. Ricky Ponting is 37 and people say he is getting a bit too old. This shows that age does not always weary them.

You could argue that Basil D'Oliveira's first-class batting average of 39.97 and his test batting average of 40.06 would have been considerably higher had he been fairly granted the opportunity to play representative cricket at the highest class when he was an up-and-coming player in South Africa. I remember watching cricket on TV with my mother when I was a youngster when Australia was fighting back in the last innings with a chance to win the match against England. I think it was a very stubborn fifth-wicket partnership and we were starting to get on top. The commentators on TV were saying England should bring on one of the specialist bowlers, but the cunning Ray Illingworth actually brought on Basil D'Oliveira. I remember the commentator saying that was a big mistake. Well, before long Basil D'Oliveira had broken that partnership, got another couple of wickets and won the match for England as a humble medium-fast bowler. So I think Ray Illingworth knew a lot more than the commentators did.

Basil D'Oliveira had the misfortune of being born a non-white in apartheid South Africa and grew up in the discriminative world that apartheid South Africa imposed. D'Oliveira got a start when he developed his trademark back-foot stroke play with a short backlift to devastating effect. He was prolific in those early formative years and he scored 80 centuries on uneven matting pitches before emigrating to England for an opportunity. I have played on a lot of matting pitches but I certainly did not have that class or score 80 centuries like he did. The closest to official cricket that Basil D'Oliveira got was sitting in the coloured stand at Cape Town. That was a crying shame for South African cricket at the time but I think they have now recognised their mistake. It is good to see that people realise he has done a lot of good for cricket in South Africa, in England and internationally. Despite pressures from above, when he was not initially selected for the South African tour, he finally got his chance, and that is what really caused the whole problem for South African cricket, leading to a ban for many years to come. But it was the right decision to make.