Basil D'Oliveira's son remembers 'a family man'

BBC Midlands Today's Nick Owen talked to Damian D'Oliveira about his father Basil D'Oliveira

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The son of cricket legend Basil D'Oliveira, who died last week, has said he hopes his father will be remembered for his cricket - and not just his role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

D'Oliveira, who was born in South Africa, moved to the UK in the 1960s because of the lack of opportunities for non-white players.

He went on to play for England but his selection for the 1968 tour of South Africa led to a political storm, the cancellation of the tour and sporting isolation for his former country.

"It's difficult to get away from it - his intentions when he came over to England were just to play cricket and '68 was a by-product," said Damian D'Oliveira, who followed in his father's footsteps by playing for Worcestershire.

His late father, who was fondly known as Dolly and died on Friday, played for the county between 1964 and 1980 and represented England in 44 Tests, scoring 2,484 runs at an average of 40.

However the cancelled South African tour was something he never talked about.

"You could never get anything out of him - like his age," said D'Oliveira, who added that his father did not have a birth certificate.

He said the family and the club thought that D'Oliveira died aged 80 but it has been reported that he was born in 1928, making him 83.

"I'm not even sure my mum knows his real age, perhaps we will never know," said D'Oliveira, who grew up at the family home in Worcestershire along with his brother Sean.

'Just Dad'

He said the family had been "overwhelmed" by the tributes that had been paid since his father's death was announced.

He said: "We've been contacted by people from all round the world, on websites, texts, emails including tributes from SA cricket, tributes from Western Province cricket.

"We've heard there will be a memorial service on Newlands [a cricket ground in Cape Town] for him - we forget how big a name he really was."

Basil D'Oliveira batting for England at the Oval in 1968 Basil D'Oliveira scored a century for England against Australia at the Oval in 1968

D'Oliveira remembers his father as a "family man".

"The events of '68 didn't affect the family - when he came home he was just dad, he closed the door and that was it.

"He was a man of very few words, even less at home."

D'Oliveira settled in Worcester with his wife Naomi in 1964 and his grandson Brett, 18, is now upholding the family's cricketing tradition and made his debut for Worcestershire last summer.

D'Oliveira said: "Brett's aware of the pressure but hopefully can carry his name on.

"That's probably our one regret, that Dad didn't get to see him play."

He explained that the last seven years of D'Oliveira's life - as he battled Parkinson's disease in a nursing home - had been difficult.

Worcestershire honoured D'Oliveira in 2003 by naming a new stand after him at New Road.

His son's comments came as it was announced a private funeral would be held for the cricketer.

His family said a memorial service would be held at Worcester Cathedral on 27 January.

D'Oliveira said: "I hope people do remember him for his cricket - he's famous for 68 but he wasn't a bad player either."

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