Holgate is proof that even ‘wildest dreams’ come true

Bruce 'Cookie' Wilson and Dave Holgate
Bruce 'Cookie' Wilson and Dave Holgate

South Africa head into this week’s start of the Over-50s Cricket World Cup among the favourites, thanks in large to the impressive list of players included in their 16-man squad.

While the majority of the squad have only just recently dusted off their cricket kits after many years in the garden shed, names like Dave Callaghan, Alan Dawson, Henry Williams and Louis Koen mean they - along with the likes of England, Pakistan and defending champions Australia - have been tipped to lift the trophy come March 24.

Over and above the six former internationals in the line-up, most of the Proteas veterans have played First-Class cricket along the way. That is, barring two players … Bruce Wilson and Dave Holgate.

Not that the fact is bothering Holgate too much: “I’ve played with and against many of our First-Class and ex-Proteas squad members over the years in pressure situations, and also played against an Over-50s England side for a Western Province Invitational Over-50s team at Newlands last year, so I’m simply looking at it as if we are just playing another game of cricket. Obviously while pinching myself that we are playing in a World Cup!”

Holgate is a stylish wicket-keeper batsman who has represented the likes of Fish Hoek, Western Province Defence Force and Cape Town Cricket Club, where he has spent the last 21 years.

During that time he has kept to some of the country’s finest bowlers like Garth le Roux, Stephen Jeffries and Brian McMillan, while also facing up to top-class international bowlers like Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis and Alan Dawson.

He cites one of his career highlights as scoring 96 as captain of CTCC in a Premier League fixture against a Claremont Cricket Club team who had the likes of Dawson, Kallis and Dean Payne in their ranks.

However, getting the call to represent his country at the age of 54 has surpassed any previous cricketing achievement.

“Only in my wildest dreams did I think it possible that I would represent my country in international cricket,” Holgate says. “As a young boy of 10 or so I recall watching Western Province play Natal at Newlands from under the oaks with my late father, 'The Right Reverend Donald Vaughn Holgate', and while watching a very strong feeling came across me that I would play at this ground one day.

“As club cricketers later on we were very fortunate to play many a game at Newlands. It was a pleasure and great challenge keeping wicket to the likes of Brian Mac and Stephen Jeffries at Newlands for Cape Town Cricket Club.

“Some years before that, as a youngster whilst doing my national service in the army, I was taken through on occasions to keep wicket at Western Provinces middle practises at Newlands as Ritchie Ryall was working late and could only get down to training a little later. That was an absolute treat as that was a decent team under Robin Jackman, with Le Roux and Jeffries opening the bowling, and Peter Kirsten bowling his offies.

“Ritchie was always very kind to pass on some of his vast experience and wicketkeeping tips. So yeah, if I were to be involved in a World Cup final at Newlands on the 24th, it would be a dream come true … something really, really special!”

His body may disagree though. With eight games in the space of 13 days, the Over-50s will be tested like never before, but Holgate has done his best to mitigate the risks.

“I’ve been putting in extra gym and cricket training sessions to be as prepared as possible with that in mind, though it’s tough finding the time while trying to run a business, as well as a few injury niggles along the way. It’s also tough as a keeper-batsman as you need to find time to practise both disciplines, but I'm a firm believer of the mantra 'Where there’s a will, there’s a way'!”