Basil D'Oliveira

Kwanele Butana

Cape Town-born Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood is writing a feature film about the life of cricket great Basil D’Oliveira.

Co-produced by Andy Harries and Paul Yule, Dolly is set to be shot in Cape Town next year.

Born in Cape Town in 1931, D’Oliveira was classified coloured by the apartheid regime and was therefore barred from first-class cricket, even though he had captained South Africa’s national black cricket team.

He was forced to emigrate to England in 1960.

The all-rounder first played for England in 1966. When England was to tour South Africa in 1968-69, South African authorities did not allow him to play in the country, resulting in the tour being called off.

The South African government’s refusal to accept him as a member of the England touring team was one of the tipping points as the regime became isolated in the world of sports because of apartheid, an isolation that helped lead to the eventual overthrow of apartheid

During his international career he scored 2 484 runs at an average of 40, and took 47 wickets in 44 Tests.

D’Oliveira died at his home in Worcester, England, from Parkinson’s disease, at the age of 80, on Saturday. Since then, tributes have poured in from all over the world.

Harwood, an Oscar winner for The Pianist and nominee for The Diving Bell and Butterfly, has written a script which captures D’Oliveira’s personal journey, together with the high-stakes political intrigue that accompanied it.

Yule, who made an award-winning documentary about him in 2004 titled Not Cricket: The Basil D’Oliveira Conspiracy, said yesterday D’Oliveira’s story was “so important for the identity of contemporary South Africa”.

“He’s an amazing role model. He went to England days after the Sharpeville Massacre and used his sport genius to change the political landscape,” he said.

He commended D’Oliveira’s personal struggle to achieve his dream of playing top-class, cricket, despite political obstacles and his mature age. D’Oliveira’s was 35 when he first played for the English Test cricket side.

“It’s a great multiracial story, he’s the greatest non-white cricketer,” he said. “What he did was to show the outside world the barbarism of apartheid.”

Harries won as Oscar as the producer of The Queen.

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