VCASA bringing old friends together

By Grant Jansen

The Veterans Cricket Association of South Africa (VCASA) leagues have undoubtedly brought former players back together in a big way, allowing old friends and foe the opportunity to wind back the clock and revive old friendships and rivalries through the game of cricket which we all so truly love.

Sunday was indeed special when I had the opportunity to play against my old Western Province Under-21 teammate from over 30 years ago, the legendary Doc James Albanie, who hails from the Little Karoo town, Touws River.

I was only 17 when I was selected alongside Albanie in the WP side to participate in the 1989 South African Cricket Board U21 tournament in Port Elizabeth. Albanie was already a seasoned campaigner, having moved to Cape Town and playing for the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

We ventured on a bus trip to the tournament via Oudtshoorn to play in a Booley Bowl match against South Western Districts. The three-day match was completed in two days thanks to sublime, hostile pace bowling by Albanie, allowing us an early departure for Port Elizabeth.

I was the baby on the tour and James took me under the wing. His impeccable control, discipline and strategy while bowling left me in awe. These abilities he not only used to enhance his fast bowling, but I quickly worked out that it was the very way he approached his studies. He believed that education was a priority for a young person even if you had sporting ability and encouraged me through his example. By the time James turned 20 he already commenced his post grad studies in Social Work.

He is a great storyteller and has a wonderful sense of humour. To this day I remember his stories about growing up in Touws River when he spoke about the incredibly high temperatures he had to endure during summertime, where daytime temperatures would consistently take the mercury above 40deg C and the five-hour train trips from Touws River to Bellville when returning for holidays that allowed him to get through some wonderful reads.

I made my debut in the tournament when I opened the bowling with Albanie vs Boland at the very special Zwide Stadium in Port Elizabeth - a match we won very comfortably. WP advanced to the finals against an EP side that featured, amongst others, former Protea spinner Shafiek Abrahams and current international umpire Shaun George.

WP U21 clinched the national title and at the closing ceremony the winner’s trophy was handed to us by the late cabinet minister Dullah Omar in the well renowned Alabama Hotel.

The incredible memories of that wonderful SACB tourney were brought to the forefront when bumping into Doc at Groot Drakenstein Cricket Ground in Franschhoek, me for the WP 050s Invitational team and Albanie for the Boland 050s Invitational team in preparation for the 050s Interprovincials in October.