Worcestershire’s director of cricket Steve Rhodes has paid tribute to former county and England all-rounder Basil D’Oliveira who has died aged 80.
D’Oliveira, who had been in deteriorating health for several years, is the father of Worcestershire’s Academy director and Second XI coach Damian and grandfather of leg-spinner Brett who made his senior debut for Worcestershire in a Clydesdale Bank 40 match against Yorkshire at Headingley in August.
Brett is spending the winter playing club cricket for his grandfather’s first club, St Augustine’s in Cape Town, but will return home for the funeral.
D’Oliveira played for Worcestershire from 1964 to 1979 when he retired from playing to become the county’s senior coach. He reappeared against Middlesex in 1980 and was in charge of Worcestershire’s first team when Rhodes arrived from Yorkshire in 1985.
“Basil wasn’t a hands-on technical coach and you wouldn’t see him at the nets,” Rhodes said. “He was more into trying to prepare people for the tough circumstances they would come across in games.
“He used to test people and use reverse psychology. He would try to get under your skin a little but and challenge you to be the best you could be. He had a unique style.”
Worcestershire president Duncan Fearnley was a team-mate when D’Oliveira arrived from Central Lancashire club Middleton in 1964 and spent a year qualifying to play county cricket.
“I was his skivvy when he first arrived but I ended up as Basil’s bat-maker. It’s funny how things turn around,” Fearnley said.
“When he arrived he used to go back up to play for Middleton at weekends but he couldn’t drive. I used to go back to play in the Bradford League so I would drive Basil up to Middleton, drop him off and then pick him up so we spent a lot of time together and we became good friends.
“I remember playing a second team game against Glamorgan at Milford Haven during that season. Joe Lister, our secretary, must have thought that Basil seemed to be a bit airy-fairy about county cricket and he asked Charlie Hallows, our coach, to have a word with him.
“I was batting and I saw Charlie come down the pavilion steps wearing his England blazer and then go on a long slow walk round the ground with Basil. The message must have got through because Basil hardly failed in the rest of that season and within two years he was playing for England.”