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  • D'Oliveira affair

    Basil D'Oliveira, the mixed-race South African-born Englandplayer at the centre of the controversy, pictured in 1968

    The D'Oliveira affair was a prolonged political andsporting controversy relating to the scheduled 196869tour of South Africa by the England cricket team, whowere officially representing the Marylebone Cricket Club(MCC).[note 1] The point of contention was whether ornot the England selectors would include Basil D'Oliveira,a mixed-race South African player who had representedEngland in Test cricket since 1966, having moved theresix years earlier. With South Africa under apartheid,the potential inclusion by England of a non-white SouthAfrican in their tour party became a political issue.A Cape Coloured of Indian and Portuguese ances-try, D'Oliveira left South Africa primarily because theeras apartheid legislation seriously restricted his careerprospects on racial grounds and barred him from theall-white Test team. He qualified for WorcestershireCounty Cricket Club through residency in 1964 and firstplayed for England two years later. The consequencesof D'Oliveiras possible inclusion in the 196869 MCCtour of South Africa were discussed by English and SouthAfrican cricketing bodies as early as 1966. Manoeuvringby cricketing and political figures in both countries didlittle to bring the matter to a head. The MCCs priority

    was to maintain traditional links with South Africa andhave the series go ahead without incident. South AfricasPrime Minister B. J. Vorster sought to appease interna-tional opinion by publicly indicating that D'Oliveiras in-clusion would be acceptable, but secretly did all he couldto prevent it.D'Oliveira was omitted from the England team for mostof 1968 amid a slump in his batting form, but he markedhis return in late August with a score of 158 runs inEnglands final Test match of the year, against Australiaat The Oval. Days later, the MCC selectors omittedD'Oliveira from the team to tour South Africa; they in-sisted that this was based entirely on cricketing merit, butmany in Britain voiced apprehension and there was a pub-lic outcry. After Tom Cartwright's withdrawal becauseof injury on 16 September, the MCC chose D'Oliveira asa replacement, prompting accusations from Vorster andother South African politicians that the selection was po-litically motivated. Attempts to find a compromise fol-lowed, but these led nowhere. The MCC announced thetours cancellation on 24 September.Sporting boycotts of SouthAfrica were already under wayby 1968, but the D'Oliveira controversy was the first tomake a serious impact on South African cricket. TheSouth African Cricket Board of Control announced its in-tention to remove racial barriers in South African cricketin 1969, and formally integrated the sport in 1976. Mean-while, the boycott movement escalated sharply, leading toSouth Africas near-complete isolation from internationalcricket from 1971, though the country continued to playinternational rugby into the 1980s, twice allowing mixed-race New Zealand rugby teams into the country duringthe 1970s. D'Oliveira played for England until 1972, andfor Worcestershire until 1979. South Africa returned tointernational cricket in 1991, soon after apartheid beganto be dismantled.

    1 Background

    1.1 South Africa

    From the time that European settlers first arrived inSouth Africa in 1652, the country was divided on raciallines, in common with similar settlements. In contrastto other European colonies, racial distinction and segre-gation intensified during the early 20th century, and thevarious ethnic groups became more sharply defined anddivided.[1] Following its general election victory in 1948,




    An apartheid-era sign in English and Afrikaans designating apublic space as for the exclusive use of white persons

    the National Party, led by Daniel Malan, formalised thisracism under a government policy called apartheid.[2] Un-der apartheid, different races were kept apart in all as-pects of life.[3] This system was thoroughly enforced dur-ing the 1950s; any resistance from non-white races wasput down and laws, supposedly to prevent the rise of com-munism, were passed to prevent political agitation.[4]

    From a cricketing viewpoint, the apartheid policy madelittle difference.[4] Although cricket was played widelyamong the different racial groups in South Africa, theTest team, which represented the country in interna-tional matches, had always been all white.[note 2][7][8] Un-der apartheid, this became official policy as the gov-ernment reasoned that black, coloured (mixed race) andIndian players were inherently inferior and not worthy ofselection. Different races were forbidden from compet-ing against each other.[9] South African cricket teams didnot compete against India, Pakistan or the West Indies,but teams from England, Australia and New Zealand con-tinued to visit the country. English cricketers particu-larly enjoyed tours to South Africa owing to the hospital-ity they received and the quality of living. The politicalwriter and historian Peter Oborne suggests: Relationsbetween the cricket establishments of the two countrieswere exceptionally warm. Only few visitors noticed, andeven fewer cared, that there was something wrong.[4]

    During the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) tour ofSouth Africa during 194849,[note 1] the first underapartheid, the BBC commentator John Arlott was hor-rified when he saw a black man assaulted for no reason.This prompted him to visit several townships where hefound black people living in very poor conditions. Hecontrasted this unfavourably with the luxury of the homeswhere he was entertained by white families.[12] Billy Grif-fith, one of the touring team, accompanied him on onevisit to a township, and was similarly appalled, but did notspeak out against it. Arlott later condemned apartheid,

    during a 1950 BBC broadcast,[13] and refused to com-mentate during future tours to the country. His exam-ple was followed by the England batsman and clergymanDavid Sheppard, who declined to tour South Africa, re-fused to play the team in 1960, and spoke out publiclyagainst the policies of the South African government de-spite efforts by the MCC to silence him.[12] Otherwise,there was little protest in England against South Africancricket during the 1950s.[8]

    1.2 England

    UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (left) visits Nigeria in1960. British attitudes towards race and apartheid were shift-ing greatly at this time.

    From themid-1950s, the UnitedNations began to expressconcern over apartheid, and there was a growing gen-eral awareness in Britain of its effects. In 1960 the UKPrime Minister Harold Macmillan criticised apartheidin his "Wind of Change" speech to the South Africanparliament.[note 3] However, the British government wascautious; the large number of British passport holders andbusinesses based in South Africa made them reluctant toforce the issue and provoke a confrontation. Additionally,there was support for the policy among some right-wingpoliticians.[15] When the MCC team toured South Africain 195657, the players observed and were shocked bywhat they considered to be injustices against the blackpopulation. As many players and officials had family andfriends in the country, they were disinclined to take astand, but several condemned the situation in print at thetime or later.[16]

    Overall attitudes in England towards South Africancricket began to change in the 1960s.[8] At the time,race was becoming an emotive matter in England andthe immigration from Asia and the Caribbean becamean issue in general elections.[17] Racial tensions had risenthroughout the 1950s, and race riots had occurred. TimQuelch, in his review of English cricket in the 1950s,suggests that "[Englands] record on race relations hadhardly been exemplary.[18] But Jack Williams, in hisbook Cricket and Race, suggests that cricket was a force