It will be for others who saw more of his play to write of Basil D’Oliveira the cricketer and the man, so I shall largely confine my remarks primarily to Basil D’Oliveira The Idea.
To anyone under the age of fifty, he was an idea or, perhaps, an affair. His life will forever be defined by events in which he played no part – his notorious non-selection by MCC for the 1968-69 tour to Apartheid South Africa followed by an outcry and subsequent drafting into the squad after Tom Cartwright was sidelined by injury. That shabby episode in the history of a great club was the catalyst for more than twenty years isolation of the Apartheid state before re-admission in the Nineties.
I saw Basil play on television only a few times and he was well past his prime by then, but one could discern the great player he had been – balance at the crease, time to play the ball, shots all round the wicket, crafty swinging, seamers with the ball never quite there to hit. The player he most resembled was, in some senses, his alter-ego, the man brought down by his own moral turpitude rather than the moral turpitude of others. Though they shared many characteristics as cricketers, they shared little as men – Hansie Cronje and Basil D’Oliveira, now both gone and I hope, reconciled in another place watching their heirs.