Friday, July 25th, 2014

Hundreds Attend Dolly Thanksgiving Service And Pay Tribute

Hundreds Attend Dolly Thanksgiving Service And Pay Tribute

Hundreds of Worcestershire supporters and players and officials past and present attended a Thanksgiving Service in memory of Damian D'Oliveira at New Road yesterday (Monday).

Damian, a Worcestershire player for 13 years from 1982-1995 and then Academy Director from 2000 onwards, passed away last month after a long and brave battle against cancer.

Those present heard moving tributes from Damian's oldest son, Marcus, and current Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes who played alongside Damian for a decade at New Road before the duo worked in tandem off the pitch for many years.

Current president and former player John Elliott read the moving Michael Ashby poem "A Cricketer's Last Boundary.'

Then the current first team squad, many of whom came through the Academy under D'Oliveira, displayed their tribute with a stirring rendition of the Worcestershire victory song which the team sing in the dressing room after every victory.

The service was conducted by former Worcestershire secretary, the Reverend Prebendary Mike Vockins and the Reverend Father Hugh Sinclair.

Amongst the many past players attending were Roy Booth, Duncan Fearnley, president John Elliott, Glenn Turner, Phil Neale, Richard Illingworth, Neal Radford, Gavin Haynes, Gordon Lord, Phil Weston and Gareth Batty who will be in action against Worcestershire for Surrey in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final on Saturday.

Many of them were happy to pay tribute to D'Oliveira.

Former captain Neale said: "It is fitting the Thanksgiving Service was held at the County Ground and everyone had the chance to remember the fun that Damian brought to the club.

"He was a fantastic character, always had a smile, never showed you that he was worried about things, and just got on played. He was the life and soul of the team and guys that came in from other teams enjoyed his company.

"He became very friendly with guys like Beefy (Ian Botham) when he played.

"He had a very positive point of view on the cricket field – but also from the mischief point of view in the dressing room!He will be sadly missed.

"He was a very important player in what was a very successful side. When he scored runs, he scored them at a pace that  took the game away from the opposition.

"He was able to bowl and catch at slip. He was an integral member of the side and guys like him and Martin Weston. and Stuart Lampitt played key roles in Worcestershire winning things."

Current chief executive and ex team-mate of Damian, David Leatherdale, said: "The idea of Damian having a church service wasn't top of his agenda and the family were very keen to have something at the cricket ground.

"My memories of him are as a jovial sort of cricketer, he was a fairly laidback sort of an individual. Nothing fazed him a lot of the time.

"But the other legacy of Damian is what we are doing at the moment with the cricket field and seeing the players who are starting to bear some fruit, not only the ones in the first team now but the ones potentially coming through in the next two to three years.

"They are part of that lovely conveyor belt that Damian has put so much hard work into.".

Former England spinner Illingworth, who is now a member of the ICC elite umpires panel, said: "It puts a lot of things into perspective. Your careers are very short and sometimes life is very short and Dolly at 53 is no age to finish at.

"I think he can look back on his career and time with Worcestershire with great fondness.

"I've got the 1994 NatWest Trophy winning tie on today. I've got a picture in the house of myself and Dolly on the balcony at Lord's celebrating the victory over Warwickshire.

"I thought it was quite poignant that I should wear that tie today because it was a great time for us at Worcester and also the fact that Dolly had such a beaming smile holding the trophy with all the family and friends looking up from below.

"His legacy will go on with the current players and no-one is more pleased than I to see an upturn in Worcestershire's fortunes.

"That is not only a testament to Damian and Steve Rhodes, it gives the area a lift as well."

President Elliott said: "Damian was a special person and I've known him since he was a very young boy who came over from South Africa with his family. Damian was a very special person.

"The one thing thing that has come out of this, and Tracey (D'Oliveira) said this to me the other night, is she always thought he lived in his father's shadow. But what's happened since he died, and all the cards and messages she's had, she realised he was a special person and was his own person and she is very proud of that.

"He did a wonderful job with the Academy and it is reflected in the side now. We've got some wonderful talent at Worcester thanks to Damian and we've got some wonderful talent which should see us in good stead for the next few years."

Former opener Weston said: "He was fun-loving, an absolute gentleman, no-one had a bad word to say about him. Nothing but fond memories of Damian and the whole D'Oliveira family really.

"He did things his own way, played with a smile on his face, and he had a huge amount of talent and played in a very good side."

Spinner Batty said: "It is a very sad day but the biggest tribute you can pay a man is he didn't just have friends, he had friends who loved him and the turn-out today shows that.

"I know I owe a huge amount to Dolly both as a man and a coach and I wouldn't have missed this for anything.

"He helped me with very simple things. The game is very simple and fortunately he had a great knowledge and managed to keep it very simple for me.

"If I ever had problems, I went to see him and within five minutes it was sorted whether it be words he gave to me or something technical. He was a very special man."

The family have asked for donations to be sent to: Macmillan Cancer Support, c/o Chris Neale, The Nook, Battenhall, Worcester, WR5 2HW.