Originally published 2 July, 2014 in DeepExtraCover
Look across from the press box at New Road and the familiar letterings of ‘Basil D’Oliveira Stand’ hits you right away. Perhaps, it’s a symbolism of the legacy the South African has left on these shores. Such heights of recognition is hard to replicate and for someone to live in that venerable shadow for the length of his life must have been more than going through the mill. But that’s the expectancy that comes with being the son of Basil D’Oliveira. Damian, approached it in his own way, and if not world beating he leaves a legacy that’s in hindsight has the measure of coming full circle in years to come.
Popular among the cricketing delicacies of New Road, somewhat similar to his career, the materialisation of his success can be best seen by the Worcestershire Academy Director role he fulfilled with virtuosity. It doesn’t mean to demeanour his cricketing career in any way but what his protégés have managed to achieve this year is a sublime example of what’s in store for Worcestershire Cricket in years to come and that has the longevity to withstand the test of time.
Taking Worcestershire back to the golden ages, a period when he played where the county was ruling the roost precipitating in two County Championship titles must have been the idealism that drove him to present bright youngsters their dues along with County Director Steve Rhodes’ vision. The great encumbrance that stood in between was the lack of output in previous years, at least not at the same level to the promise shown by the players. It must have been compulsory to have lot of faith, when things were pointing for an uphill battle. ‘Bumpy’ (Rhodes) and ‘Dolly’, as he’s affectionately known, never lost the moral fibre and the by-product has been right in front of their eyes this season.
It must have been easier to build a rapport between the two, as Rhodes and D’Oliveira stood next to each other at slips for Pears in those halcyon days. A career expanding to almost 15 years, culminating in 9504 first-class runs in 234 matches and 55 wickets rolling the arm over, D’Oliveira was part of the major success the county had. Worcestershire’s family tradition meant he would go on to take over the Academy while Rhodes would be appointed the coach in 2005 and their team-mate David Leatherdale, is the current Chief-Executive.
His former skipper Phil Neale, former club chairman Duncan Fearnley and David Morgan, the president elect of MCC were some of the faces that graced the last Sunday morning in which he was reported as passed away and the stygian atmosphere that circulated the ground including the spectators was attestation that Cricket was saying goodbye to one of the good men. They would still get to strike a note of the man every time his son, Brett plays. Laidback in appearance, the lack of activity D’Oliveira undertook since the season began was a doomed clue that he was going through a critical phase in his two year battle against cancer.
With seven Academy graduates bearing the county’s fortunes, he couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate time in cricketing parlance to say good bye to New Road. Hence, probably it’s best to leave the last words to young Tom Fell who scored a hundred showing immense maturity, something which the late great would be proud of, on the day against Glamorgan.
“That was for Damian. Myself and Tom (Kohler-Cadmore) owe him so much. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He initially put me on the Academy when I was 14-15, he’s coached me all through that and he’s been a fantastic influence not only for myself but everyone at the club. Credit to such a fantastic man.”