Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy

There is a marvellous review of Peter Oborne's book on the Crooked Timber website. It's so good that you hardly feel a need to read the book.

Here is a heart-warming chunk of it:

The book has villains: not just those mentioned, but others in the cricket establishment. But it has heroes too.

The committee at Middleton Cricket Club, where D’Oliveira started, and the people of Middleton themselves, seem to have treated him and his wife with grace and kindness.

John Arlott championed his cause, gave kindly advice, lent money, and was the all-round good chap that was John Arlott. Illingworth extracted a fase promise that he could take Dolly on tour, and then snookered the selectors into honouring the promise. Tom Graveney was brilliant.

The late lamented David Sheppard led the crusade within the MCC against the selectors; perhaps more courageously Mike Brearley, still only in his 20’s, insisted on seconding Sheppard’s motion condemning the selectors for bowing to political pressure despite the risk to his career (this goes some way to explaining why, despite playing for Middlesex, he was overlooked by the selectors for so long).

It is astonishing to find that so many of one’s childhood heroes were, well, heroes (I started expecting Kenneth Horne or Jon Pertwee to turn up).

Oh, and, there’s also D’Oliveira, who comes across as human, flawed, but, when it really mattered, unflinchingly principled.

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