Sebola to make history at Over-50 World Cup
When the opening game of the Men’s Over-50 World Cup rolls into Cape Town on March 6, there will at least be some representation of the fairer sex in the shape of Gaynor Sebola.
The 38-year-old will be one of the officials in the middle when tournament favourites Australia face Sri Lanka at the picturesque Green Point Cricket Club, and in the process become the first female to umpire at the Over-50 World Cup, which will be sponsored by Evergreen Lifestyle.
It will represent the latest in a series of meteoric steps for Sebola, who incredibly only umpired her first match just over three years ago.
“I played cricket at junior and senior level many moons ago and then got involved in admin when I joined the defence force,” she reflects. “While there I was involved in running cricket for the defence and special forces, but in 2019 I decided to leave the admin side of things and pursue umpiring.
“I obtained my Level 1 in 2019 and almost immediately officiated my first match, in the Western Province Cricket Associations’ First Division D League. Originally when I started I didn’t find it that difficult - I guess my playing experience helped a lot. Of course there were a few issues, but it was all about good man management.
“As I progressed through the levels it became easier as the quality and competitiveness improved. At first there was a lot of excessive appealing, probably because I’m a woman, but gradually they got used to me and saw it wasn’t having any effect.”
By 2022, Sebola had worked her way into the top division of men’s club cricket in Western Province, becoming the first female umpire to officiate in the Premier Division. But it was her performance standing in a friendly match for the Mumbai Indians that got her the gig for the 2023 Over-50 World Cup.
“WPCA had identified a group of Level 3 umpires for the tournament of which I was one, but I never thought I’d make it,” she admits. “But then I umpired a friendly match between the Mumbai Indians and SA Rural Inland team at Newlands. After I stood that match they requested that I come back, and I believe that’s what got me the nod for the Over-50s World Cup.”
Sebola admits to some serious nerves going into the opening match of the tournament, but she’s confident the learnings she has taken from the past three-and-a-bit years will stand her in good stead.
“I’m very excited going into my first World Cup,” she says. “Of course there are nerves and butterflies, more so because I’m standing the opening match between Sri Lanka and Australia, but it is a great opportunity for me to exercise the hard work and hours I have put in through the years and show what I’ve got. I’m super excited and I want to do my best!”