Tom Graveney - Remembering the Early Days.
I first met Basil on an international tour in Kenya in the early sixties organised by Ron Roberts, who at the time was a cricket writer with the Daily Telegraph.
I clearly remember Kenya taking the second new ball against him at the Sikh Ground in Nairobi, and the ball kept disappearing out of the ground – to me there was never any doubt about his abilities and temperament to become a top player.
The next thing I heard was that he had joined Middleton in the Central Lancashire League; I believe John Arlott had a hand in this.
On a tour to Pakistan with a commonwealth side, I got to know him quite well and suggested he should play 1st Class cricket however he was unsure he would be good enough. Late in the tour we sat down in the Metropole Hotel in Karachi and sorted a few things out. A couple of bottles of scotch later I persuaded him to join me at Worcester!! He had to qualify before playing in the County Championships in 1965 and Worcester were then reigning Champions, winning the Championship again that season.
He took to the game like duck to water – scored a big hundred against Essex in his first match and never looked back. It was remarkable that in only his second season in cricket he was in the England twelve for the 1st Test at Old Trafford against West Indies, but ended up as 12th man. England lost by an Innings!
For the Lord’s test he was again selected and for me it was an amazing move by the selectors to also pick me on my 39th Birthday after a gap of three years out of the side and we both played in the later tests.
After a poor tour to West Indies in 1968 and losing the Test against Australia at Old Trafford he was dropped and lost form. However by late July he was back to his best and when Roger Prideaux dropped out at the final test at the Oval, I had a phone call from Colin Cowdrey about his replacement. I had no hesitation in recommending Basil, advice which was taken. He then scored 158 and took the important wicket to help us square the series.
Then followed the dreadful mix up over the side to tour South Africa. Was it because of his poor trip to West Indies or some other devious reasons? As everyone knows he was then selected because Ian Cartwright pulled out. The South Africans refused to allow him as replacement, which led to them being dropped from international sport, and in the long term the ending of Apartheid.
Basil was a wonderful cricketer and is an incredible person – the tougher the job on the field, the better he played and I count him amongst one of my best friends.
Tom Graveney is the distinguished, former President of MCC (2005) and was a former captain of England, Gloucestershire CCC and Worcestershire CCC. He was Wisden Cricketer of the year in 1953.