A Nudge and a Wink

"Enter Tienie Oosthuizen ... At the time he was the UK managing director of the Carreras Tobacco Company of which Rothmans is a subsidiary.

"Mr Oosthuizen asked me to come and see him in London as soon as possible to discuss a business venture. I agreed and found myself being offered £4 000 a year for the next ten years with a car, house and generous expenses thrown in for good measure. All I had to do was to leave for South Africa as soon as the English season had ended to take up the job of cricket coach and sports organizer for an organization called the South African Foundation. He said he wanted a man to look after facilities for Coloured South Africans.

"The offer, of course, was very tempting but there were two snags: I had to declare myself unavailable for the England tour and make my announcement before August 14th. The MCC tour party was due to be announced on August 28th and Mr Oosthuizen said he had to let the Sports Foundation know my answer within a fortnight. I was suspicious about the need for haste and his assurance that the offer had nothing to do with politics. I knew I could not accept while there was still an outside chance of realizing my lifetime's ambition [of being in the England party touring South Africa]. It would insult my own people, the ones who were as desperate for me to get on that trip as I was.

"I told him I wouldn't prejudice my chances of being selected for the tour and he replied, 'if you knew you would not be accepted in South Africa as a member of that tour, would you then take the job?' I pointed out that nobody could know whether I would be accepted. He relied, 'Well, I can'. He said he had enough contacts in political circles to get an answer within a few days. I said, 'Find out for me and we'll talk again'. We met at the Excelsior Motel near Oxford on the following Sunday and he told me that he had it from the highest possible source that, if I was being included in the MCC side, I would an embarrassment to the government and to Mr [John] Voster. He asked me if, reading between the lines, I realized what would that mean; it would be better for me not to go. I told him I could not let so many people down by withdrawing my availability, not would I want to. He asked me to contact him within a few days, even though I re-iterated that I would not change my mind. The whole thing was far too fishy.

"I was determined to keep open the door to a recall by England, even though it meant throwing away security for my wife and family. Mr Oosthuizen phoned me again before he flew out to South Africa and I found myself bluffing. I told him I'd been offered £2000 by an organization just to stay available for the tour. 'Basil, I'll do even better if you take this job for me', he said. My bluff had revealed how keen he was to land my services and keep me away from consideration for the tour. I stalled for time and he said he'd ring me again in a few days.

"The same Sunday, the England team was announced for the final Test at the Oval - and I wasn't in it ... Mr Oosthuizen rang again on the Tuesday and I made it clear that I would still like to wait until the tour party was selected in eight days' time. If I wasn't in the party, then I would be happy to take up the offer. I told him there was still an outside chance of my selection and I wanted to hang on. I stalled again and he agreed to ring me the following morning at home. He was very persistent, affirming time after time that it was the best possible course of action for me."

"[After hearing of my selection for England] I dashed back home in high excitement. At last, one more chance! On the Oval wicket against an ordinary Aussie bowling side! How could I fail? These thoughts swirled around in my mind as I hastily packed my gear. I kept wondering how ... Tienie Oosthuizen would now view the situation. The following morning, I waited for the call from Mr Oosthuizen. Dead on the appointed time, the international operator called and said, 'The call booked to you from South Africa has been cancelled. The caller is not able to talk to you'. I never heard from, nor set eyes on Tienie Oosthuizen again. Nor did I ever find out if someone was putting up all that money to keep me away from consideration for the tour."

- From: D'Oliveira, B with Murphy, P, 1980, Time to Declare: An Autobiography, Macmillan Publishers: Johannesburg, pp 65-66

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"A black man can't be a white man during a day's sport, then revert to being a black man."
Basil D'Oliviera
Basil D'Oliviera, 1966
Picture © Sunday Times


Editorials: historical opinions and arguments

In this lesson plan, learners will become familiar with the concept of an editorial. They will be encouraged to identify the writer's opinion, and to follow the development of her/his arguments.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
Spotlight on a reluctant hero: Basil D’Oliveira in action on the field and in top hat and tails at Buckingham Palace.
Take a 360° tour of the memorial site on Campground Road in Newlands, Cape Town.
Basil D'Oliviera - Lost son of South African Cricket
Features footage of the 1968 England-Australia test, and of BJ Vorster explaining why D’Oliveira could not play in his own country.