Ageing Cricketer (1)

My cricket career peaked, aged 13, in the back garden and on Southport beach. Four years later, I skippered the school Second XI, followed by a few games as an undergraduate. Then evening leagues at Heath Hospital, Cardiff, Manchester University and Northallerton, where I also played for Thorp Perrow, a non-league side based at Sir John Ropner’s country seat, near Bedale. Returning home, I joined Almondbury Casuals, the only friendly cricket team in Huddersfield with a full fixture list. Hence a teenage forceful middle order batsman and wicketkeeper mutated into a mature opener who made Boycott look elegant, and an elderly fill-in keeper who often had to be substituted.

I retired following a game with Elvaston, who play in a beautiful country estate. They are in the Derbyshire leagues, but put out a Sunday team with enough fire-power not to lose, making up the numbers with juniors. It was the day they picked Mr Moult. A young, muscular Colin Milburn, who, coming in at number six, violently belted our bowling to the boundary, uncannily either off me or through me. It was a tiring half hour retrieving the ball from the undergrowth just beyond the boundary. Our turn to bat, I also came in at six, whereupon they brought Mr Moult on to bowl. ‘He just needs a fitness test,’ they said, ‘before returning to the First XI.’ He ran in from just in front of the sight screen, thankfully keeping the ball well up to the bat. The inevitable however, was not delayed; clean bowled and a gloomy drive home.

I’d turned 60, obviously no longer competitive in a strong fixture, annoyed and embarrassed by the guffaws that greet ineptitude, perceived or otherwise. ‘Choose your games,’ said a pal. Can an enthusiastic part-timer match the demands of Sunday cricket? Yes, depending who is available. If there is a dearth of young sons, 30-somethings with some space between family and work or 40-somethings from the leagues who fancy a change then okay, maybe I could fill a gap. Personal pride is still there however, and, with fading skills and stamina, there is a danger that comfort within a team will also fade. ‘Why care?’ someone asked. Caring gives me that prickly edge and, even at 60, I both get things done and cause unease.

Traditional concepts of aging are under constant review. ‘You are as old as you feel,’ is literally true, but figuratively suggests we can give ourselves permission to work and play to the limits of our physical and intellectual development. But please leave Mr Moult in the changing room.

This was rejected by the Occupational Health Journal in Autumn 2010.