Pat Murphy, BBC Radio Sport - A Basil D'Oliveira Tribute.

To appreciate the worth of Basil D'Oliveira,you just had to be there. By that, I mean living through the 1960s,aware of the various protest movements that were sweeping across the world.

Only then could you understand the importance of a modest, mild-mannered Cape Coloured called D'Oliveira.

The Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam demonstrations in America,the similar agitations against the USA in Grosvenor Square,London,the battle for civil rights among Catholics in Ulster,the campaign to unseat President de Gaulle in France,the crushing by the Soviets of a revolt in Czechoslovakia and Hungary,countless Ban the Bomb demos - the world seemed in ferment in the late sixties.

And there was also the growing revulsion in Britain against the apartheid regime in South Africa. When Basil D'Oliveira charmed England cricket fans by his ability and personal qualities, legitimate questions were asked.

Why did a man of such outstanding gifts and personality have to come to England to improve himself? Why couldn't South Africa pick him to represent the land of his birth? Because of the colour of his skin. Simple as that.

We were proud to have Basil representing us. It made us feel good about ourselves,giving further credence to the aim of making Britain a genuinely multi-racial society. South Africa weren't impressed,though. At that time,Cape Coloureds were supposed to know their place.

The events of August,1968 - when Basil wasn't picked for the England tour of South Africa,only to be reinstated and then the tour called off - are well documented. It was an outrage that South Africa's president Jan Vorster called the eventual tour party 'The team of the anti-Apartheid Movement'.

Sympathy for Basil,the ultimate pawn in the game,was genuine and widespread throughout Britain. Some influential people at the heart of English cricket at Lord's would have preferred to appease South Africa - with financial considerations in mind - but the vast majority of the public would have no truck with such a defeatist stance.

Basil D'Oliveira became a hero by his dignified behaviour after 1968 and remained so. Unwittingly he started the ball rolling towards the eventual banning of South Africa from international cricket for more than twenty years. He kept his counsel in public and kept his head down,playing professional cricket until 1980.

He must have been an amazing player in his twenties,batting on poor and dangerous surfaces in South Africa. He was certainly formidable enough in middle age,for England and South Africa. Basil always used to say to me,'You should've seen me play when I was just a kid',and it's remarkable that he played so long.

When he retired,I had the honour of collaborating with Basil in his autobiography,called 'Time to Declare'. The foreword was contributed by my broadcasting hero,John Arlott,the journalist who had done so much to get Basil over in 1960,to play league cricket in Lancashire.

That book remains my biggest professional thrill in what could laughably be called my career. Arlott and D'Oliveira - two great men,forever entwined.

Basil D'Oliveira will always be the cricketer I admired more than anyone else. Partly through sentimentality,also respect for someone who had to fight all the way for everything he achieved and partly because I believe that the anti-Establishment fervour of the late sixties found a worthy cause in Basil.

You only had to hear the buzz of appreciation around the ground whenever he walked out to bat to understand he was the best-loved cricketer of his generation.

He'll never be forgotten.

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy is a presenter for BBC Sport Radio

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