GLOWING tributes have been paid to Worcestershire Academy director and former player Damian D’Oliveira who passed away yesterday (Sunday) after a brave battle against cancer.
D’Oliveira, 53, the son of Worcestershire legend Basil D’Oliveira, scored more than 9,000 first class runs and nearly 5,000 List A runs between 1982 and 1995 and responsible for discovering many of the current first team squad.
Former Club Chairman Duncan Fearnley said: “I knew Damian from when he was only a few years old when Basil and the family came to Worcestershire in the middle 1960s.
“They bought the house across the road from me and our kids grow up playing cricket on the outfield at New Road.
“It’s just so sad and like the rest of his family he has given his life to cricket and to Worcestershire.
“He had a good career here, he loved this club like his dad did.
“His name will live on through the players out there now in the first team as many of them came through the Academy he was in charge of.
“They’ve all come through the ranks together. He was an exciting batsman, a decent county player, and he and David Leatherdale were fighting for that spot in the middle at that time.”
Phil Neale, who skippered the Worcestershire side when D’Oliveira made his debut in 1982, added: “I was Damian’s captain but also a friend and we stayed close with Damian, Martin Weston and their families.
“It is just a moment of great sadness for all of us. Equally, you’ve got to remember Damian for how he was.
“The team I was involved in, he was a great member of that team, a very talented individual, always played with a laugh and a smile but took his cricket seriously and played a big role in Worcestershire being successful.
“We’ve been discussing things amongst the former players here today and he has a legacy here at the club in having been in charge of the Academy for a long period of time and a lot of the fruits of that are coming through now.
“You are seeing a lot of good young players with the club now and Damian has played a big part in coming through.
“I’m sure people will remember that and he has been Worcestershire through and through as the whole family have.
“It’s a very sad moment for the club but let’s remember Damian for all the positive things he did with Worcestershire.”
Worcestershire chief executive David Leatherdale, also a former team-mate of D’Oliveira, said the fruits of Damian’s work with the club’s youngsters was starting to pay off.
“Today against Glamorgan is a good example of a young lad in Tom Fell who has come through the system and the legacy is not only the players you see today that have come through but there are also a number who are starting to bear the fruits of Dolly’s work over the last five-10 years,” he added.
“Dolly was pretty laidback, he was a relaxed cricketer. Everyone remembers the way he used to score his runs, he used to score them quite quickly, but he was also a fantastic slip fielder.
“He stood at first slip next to Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) for most of his career and he had as good a pair of hands as you can find. He was a little fellow with a big pair of hands and took a huge amount of catches.
“But he offered everything. He was a great fielder when not in the slips, bowled some reasonable off-spin but his laidback manner was the way he played cricket.
“He was a loveable guy, a really good coach and he did have that eye for a fantastic cricketer through all the sort of age groups.
“Hopefully the guys we’ve got even younger than the ones playing at the moment will bear the fruits of his hard work.”