Basil D’Oliveira’s own account of his exclusion from the England squad to tour South Africa in 1968 _ Dolly RIP aged 80

Taken away: Basil D’Oliveira wrote for the Daily Telegraph the day after he was dropped from the England squad for the tour of South Africa

Basil D’Oliveira

1:31PM GMT 19 Nov 2011

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When I said yesterday that I was bitterly disappointed, that still sums up the whole situation. My first thought was to say nothing at all while I sorted out the turmoil in my own mind. But I have been so moved by the messages of encouragement and understanding that I feel I must grope around for something to say.

However, even now, I can’t reach any conclusions. As I am trying to put everything into perspective, the events and the emotions come driving back.

For instance, strange though it seems, I can, at this moment, still see the ball going off the bat as I turned Gleeson for a single to get my Test century at the Oval last Friday.

I can’t lie about that innings. I played it with only one thought in mind. It was the one great chance, the one opportunity and I was going to take it.

I knew that not even 99 would be enough. It had to be a hundred. As I scored that 100th run I kept saying to myself: “I’ve done it. I’ve done it. I had my chance and I’ve done it.”
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Going back to South Africa was a dream — a dream I dearly wanted to come true. It is still hard for me to realise that the dream has been shattered.

This dream of going back to my homeland has been in the forefront of my mind ever since I gained my first Test cap against the West Indies at Lord’s in 1966. From that moment friends kept reminding me about the tour to South Africa this year.

This is what I had lived for. The chance to be going back. To go there knowing I would play on grounds where before I could only sit with my sandwiches in a confined area. Just to walk on to the grounds at Newlands, The Wanderers, Kingsmead and to others as a member of the MCC and to know that I was there, chosen as a cricketer.

I made no other plans for the winter although I had been offered coaching jobs. Several new offers have come during the past 24 hours, but at the moment I am trying to concentrate on my cricket and finish the season with Worcestershire.

At least I do not feel the same despair as I did 10 days ago just before I was recalled to the Oval Test.

I did not mind so much when I was dropped after the first Test at Manchester because I accepted that, if England were to get equal with the Australians, they probably needed a stronger attack and I had to make way for another front-line bowler. I did hope to get my place back so that I could earn a ticket to South Africa.

As one Test followed another and I was still rejected my despair swarmed over me, and although I did not realise it my cricket suffered.

Not considered for the final Test, little county form with the bat and not a hope of a tour place, last week I went to London to discuss my future with a friend. I was despondent. I was thinking of League cricket.

The selectors seemed to have lost faith in my ability to play at Test level. I knew I could. I wanted to prove it and, unbelievable as it may seem, at the moment I learned I was to be given the chance my despair disappeared.

I know that many in South Africa will be sharing my disappointment.
There are reports that some will demonstrate. I hope they do not. They love their cricket; they have every reason to look forward to the MCC players — a great bunch of players.

MCC will give immense pleasure and I send them my sincerest wishes for a happy and successful tour, especially to skipper Colin Cowdrey and my own county captain Tom Graveney, two men to whom I owe so much.

If I can’t be with them in the dressing room I shall be very near to them on the field.