David Gower on playing cricket after 50

David Gower is considered one of the best players of his generation - a classy left-handed opener who captained England to Ashes glory and who scored almost 11 500 international runs.

But when he called time on his career in 1993, he decided that - barring the odd charity game - he would do so for good rather than continue chasing the runs which came so easy to him in an 18-year First-Class career.

It wasn’t as if Gower fell out of love with the game - who could? - but it was rather the result of his own mental make-up.

“One of my psychological failings is I hate doing things badly, which is one reason I don’t play golf,” he tells the Veterans Cricket Association of South Africa.

“It’s also the reason I stopped playing cricket pretty soon after I retired. I didn’t really enjoy the feeling of just going downhill.”

That’s not to say that Gower has anything but praise for those who are still playing cricket well into their 50s and even 60s, and more so the 192 players who will be taking part in the Over-50s Cricket World Cup in Cape Town between March 11-24.

“Potentially the issue with playing seniors cricket ... unless guys have really been working at it, if you put them in a tournament, things go ping,” he says. “Muscles which have been dormant for 10, 20 years suddenly get used again.

“It’s not quite like watching the Seniors Golf Tour where these guys just carry on playing, switching from one format to the other. Golf is a very different sort of game, whereas to play cricket … well, it takes quite a lot.

“I retired in 1993 and for the next couple of years I only played the odd charity game. I was still quite fit, could still move reasonably well, but if you’re not really involved, it’s actually quite tough playing the odd day of cricket, let alone a high sequence of games in a tournament. So I definitely take my hat off to those guys involved in the Over-50s World Cup!”

Gower continues: “I’ve got a couple of friends who are still very keen and who take part in the Over-50s County stuff. They find it’s great fun to still be involved, and they promote it for all it’s worth. They love it, and that’s all that really matters.”

Gower will be in South Africa in early March as a member of the Lord’s Taverners Celebrity Cricket XI. The UK-based disability sports charity will play two cricket matches in Cape Town against its sister organisation Lord’s Taverners South Africa to help raise awareness of the work of the charity locally, which includes Table Cricket, an adapted version of the game which gives those with physical and learning disabilities the chance to play the sport we all love.

“The thing about Table Cricket is there are people like us who are able-bodied and able to play cricket out on big fields, and if you have an ounce of talent and ability, you can make a life out of it, as I’ve done, which is fantastic,” says Gower, who has been part of the Taverners for close to 40 years.

“But then you get these children who are not so able in many different ways. What the Lord’s Taverners have done in the UK is roll out these types of projects across the country for a long time now. And it’s amazing to see these kids really just enjoying themselves. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it gives them a sense of the team spirit that we have grown so accustomed to.”

Some other famous sport stars who will make the trip include former England captain Mike Gatting, ex-Three Lions fast bowling duo Andy Caddick and Gladstone Small, as well as former England rugby internationals Rob Andrew and George Chuter.

So will South African fans see Gower flash a classy drive through the covers on South African pitches?

“Well, you will see me out on the field, but most likely only in a white coat as an umpire,” he says. “I’m going to bring a big hat, hopefully the coat will be provided. I still have the capacity to count to six, I can remember all the signals, so yeah … let’s see how it goes!”

By Ryan Cooper

The Lord’s Taverners charity celebrity cricket team and supporters will be in Cape Town to support Lord’s Taverners SA at the Sporting Legends Dinner at Kelvin Grove on March 7. The event will be hosted by Dan Nicholl, and will include chats from cricket legends like David Gower, Mike Gatting, Andy Caddick and Vincent van Der Bijl, as well as rugby stars Rob Andrew and George Chuter. Proceeds will go towards Lord’s Taverners SA’s various charity projects.

For more information or to book your spot, contact Ruth Mackenzie

Email: ruth@imergeconcepts.com Phone: +27 (0)82 886 2818