CRICKET legend and one of Worcester’s most famous adopted sons Basil D’Oliveira is set to be honoured with the freedom of the city by council chiefs, almost seven years after he passed away.
Councillors will meet on Tuesday to debate Mayor of Worcester Coun Jabba Riaz’s call to posthumously award the honour to ‘Dolly’ to mark half a century from the ‘D’Oliveira Affair’, a watershed moment which began the destruction of apartheid in South Africa.
If approved, the cricketing legend will become only the fourth recipient of the highest honour Worcester City Council can bestow in the last decade following Cecil Duckworth in 2008 and former Mayor of Worcester Mike Layland and the Queen’s Royal Hussars in 2014.
Basil D’Oliveira was of Indian-Portugese descent and was born into a Catholic family in South Africa in 1931. A keen cricketer from an early age, he played in South Africa’s national non-white team before emigrating to England in 1960.
His affiliation to New Road began in 1964 and saw him called up for his adopted country in 1966 when he recorded two half-centuries in only his second Test Match against the West Indies at Trent Bridge.
In 1968 the England team was due to play in a tour of South Africa and D’Oliveira was initially not selected because of South Africa’s apartheid rules which prevented black or mixed-race players from competing against white players.
However, there was national outrage in the British press and D’Oliveira was then called up to the England squad. South Africa responded by cancelling the tour.
The affair led to a dramatic turn in international opinion against the South African regime and is credited as being a landmark on the road to the eventual fall of apartheid in the early 1990s.
Basil played for England for a further four years and represented Worcestershire until his retirement in 1979 at the age of 48. He remained at New Road as a coach until 1991, happy to pass on his wisdom to both his own team and visitors.
His son Damian played for Worcestershire for 13 years and also followed his father on to the coaching staff before his death in 2014, while the family name lives on today with talented all-rounder Brett D’Oliveira forging a cricketing career which has already seen him captain his grandfather’s adopted home team.
“Basil D’Oliveira is a Worcestershire cricket legend and also a pivotal figure in the story of the struggle against apartheid,” Mayor Coun Riaz said.
“Millions of people around the world owe him a debt of gratitude and it will be a genuine honour to propose the motion that he be awarded the freedom of the city of Worcester.”
At least two thirds of the council’s members will need to support the motion for the freedom of the city to be awarded.
If the motion is passed, a certificate will be presented to Basil D’Oliveira’s family at a civic reception in September and his name will be inscribed on the Honorary Freeman Panel in the Guildhall.