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Dolly by Christopher Douglas

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BBC Radio 4, 16 April 2009
 
The D'Oliveira affair, centering on the selection of Basil D'Oliveira for the 1968-9 England cricket tour of South Africa, remains one of cricket's more ignominous events. Following a successful domestic season in 1968, culminating in an innings of 158 against Australia, D'Oliveira fully expected to be in the tour party - particularly when his captain Colin Cowdrey gave assurances that he would be selected. However D'Oliveira was eventually left out in favour of the Warwickshire seamer Tom Cartwright - a move interpreted by some critics as an attempt to placate the South African government, which vigorously opposed the inclusion of a Cape Coloured player. Eventually Cartwright withdrew due to injury; D'Oliveira was selected; and the South Africans retaliated by refusing to grant him an entry visa. This stand-off led to the cancellation of the tour and the beginning of two decades of sporting isolation for South Africa, that only ended with the abolition of apartheid in 1990.
 
Christopher Douglas's play looked at how the events of that year affected D'Oliveira's (Jude Akuwudike's) personal life. Having toiled long and hard to qualify for England - including taking three years off his age on his registration papers - D'Oliveira might have assumed that he could enjoy a quiet life playing cricket and drinking beer with his team-mates. However circumstances kept getting in the way; the press hounded him and his wife Naomi (Rakie Ayola) to such an extent that they were virtual prisoners in their own home. D'Oliveira only solved this problem with the help of a local journalist (Justin Salinger) who introduced him to Reg Hayter (Tim Woodward). Douglas was in no doubt that Cowdrey sold D'Oliveira down the line - as an Oxford-educated pillar of the establishment, the Kent skipper tried to save his own skin by giving in to political pressure. To D'Oliveira's credit, however, he remained committed to his beliefs - to play for England and to fight for racial equality - to such an extent that he turned down a lucrative offer from a shady white South African businessman (Saul Reichler) to coach in the Cape, so long as he relinquished his England place.
 
The play ended with a savagely humorous moment - as the D'Oliveira family sat at home, they saw on television an advertisement for a forthcoming episode of 'The Black and White Minstrels' on BBC. Basil and Naomi burst out laughing, as they realized how little their English hosts understood about the politics of apartheid, and what South African premier Vorster's intentions really were. The MCC's attempts at diplomacy (or rather appeasement) by dropping D'Oliveira looked pathetically inadequate. This entertaining play was directed by Roland Jaquarello.