Foundation aims to honour D’Oliveira
Former Worcestershire captain and England spinner Norman Gifford has launched the Basil D’Oliveira Foundation with the aim of funding a statue outside New Road to honour “one of the most significant sporting figures of the 20th century”.
All-rounder D’Oliveira played 44 Tests for England and was a Worcestershire player from 1964 to 1980. But he is renowned for the ‘D’Oliveira Affair’ after South Africa’s refusal to allow him to be part of the England squad for the 1968 tour led to their exclusion from international cricket for more than 20 years.
Gifford is chairman of the foundation which is aiming to raise £100,000 to fund the statue and to also put a long-term scheme in place to enable young players from England and South Africa to take part in exchange programmes.
The foundation has England legend Sir Ian Botham, leading broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson and Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, as its patrons.
Gifford, who took 2,068 first-class wickets in his career, said: “The statue would be a fitting sort of tribute to Basil. What he did in cricket was outstanding. He was a cricketing hero for this county and this country. But, with the D’Oliveira affair, he became one of the most significant sporting figures of the 20th century.
“He never said a lot said about the subject. He got on with playing his cricket and I don’t think it affected him at all. We never sat down and discussed all the implications of what was happening.
“The statue would cost about £100,000 and if I’m stood there at the unveiling, I’ll have a tear in my eye. We’ll do our best to make sure it comes to fruition.
“He came here in 1964 and he stayed in the area all his life after that, nearly 50 years. Worcestershire was his pride and joy.
“I looked last week at a photograph of him with Nelson Mandela and what has he got on, his Worcestershire blazer. That said it all.”
Gifford, who played in 15 Tests, believes D’Oliveira would approve of the young players exchange scheme.
He said: “Ideally we would love to have a scholarship where we could invite someone from Cape Town to come over here for a spell and send someone from here over there.
“I am sure Basil would have liked that because that is effectively how he came over here to England initially by writing to Lancashire League clubs.
“Hopefully we can do something for the young boys that it took Basil to his middle 30s to do. It would be a super tribute to him. If we do that, there will be a man up there who will look down on us and approve.”