Nick Owen - Basil...

Basil was already a huge sporting name when I first got to know him. We met through our mutual friend Jim Cumbes, one of the last of a now extinct breed, someone who made a living as a professional footballer and cricketer. He was Aston Villa goalkeeper at the time and a playing colleague of Dolly's at Worcestershire. Jim loved a party and so did Bas...inevitable really they'd be big mates! In the seventies when I was a BBC Radio producer in the Midlands, Jim always invited me to the annual Professional Footballers' Association awards in London. One year, he asked Bas along too. Wow, did we have a big night! I would give you details, but I can't remember much about it! We dropped an ocean's worth of neck oil, had loads of laughs and ended up sleeping on someone's floor. That was how I first came to know the great Basil D'Oliveira.

For years after that, of course, I would frequently see him on the cricketing circuit, mostly at New Road where he always had a beaming smile on his face and a ready line in banter. Anyone arriving from outer space would have had no idea that he was one of the most important guys in sporting history.

I was a twenty year old university student when Basil was first omitted and then picked for England's tour of South Africa in 1968. It was inevitably a massive story that the South African Prime Minister John Vorster then proclaimed that Basil would be unwelcome to tour in his own native country. Youngsters these days must find it beyond fact, the whole concept of apartheid seemed barbaric to most people then and even more so now. But I am sure we couldn't have foreseen the enormity of the consequences - South Africa's isolation from world sport for a quarter of a century and the ultimate breaking down of that hated regime.

Basil was the pivotal figure in that turning point in history. His inner turmoil must have been immense, but my abiding memory is of his remarkable dignity at a time when we realised without question, rather sadly, that sport and politics do mix. Basil is a remarkable man, who inspires deep affection and respect. I cherish my memories of an outstanding cricketer, with bat and ball, and, perhaps most of all, I cherish the smiles and the laughter.

Proud to know you, Basil!

Nick Owen

Nick Owen: Journalist; Television Presenter.

Nick's career in journalism began on the Doncaster Evening Post before moving to the Birmingham Post, BBC Radio Birmingham followed by ATV's sports department. Nick then became a general presenter for ITV Midlands, teaming up with Anne Diamond for the first time.

In 1983, Nick joined ITV's TV-am , as the sports presenter, but took over the main anchor role alongside Anne Diamond, a partnership which lasted until 1986.

Nick then joined ITV Sport as the main presenter of Midweek Sport Special. He also hosted a variety of sports programmes for ITV, including their Olympic coverage in 1988 and the World Cup in 1990.

He moved to the BBC in 1992 to present Good Morning with Anne and Nick . When the show finished in 1996, Nick presented a variety of programmes around the country. He is currently the main presenter for BBC Midlands Today .

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