Dressed in green trackies and with ball in hand, Warwick Hayes looks right at home directing his teammates through some drills on the cricket pitch.
ABC News reports that he says in his younger days he was “never the greatest player” but at 54 he’s the lead run scorer at St George District Cricket Club and has been selected to play for Australia in the inaugural Over-50s Cricket World Cup.
“I’m looking forward to it and it’s a great honour,” Mr Hayes, an environmental consultant, said. “I think we’ve got some quality players, maybe not names that everybody will recognise in terms of ex-first class cricketers, but very good high-grade cricketers.”
Eight national teams from Australia, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan, Wales and Canada will compete for the cup at cricket grounds across Sydney from Wednesday.
The Australian team benefits from a number of first-grade players, including captain Tony Clarke who has played 30 years of grade cricket, and Rowan Hayes, who plays in the Sydney Masters Cricket Association.
Pakistan, which according to Mr Hayes is one of the stronger teams, has a number of former Test cricket players including captain Ijaz Ahmed, who played 60 Tests and 250 ODIs at the peak of his career in the 1990s.
Returning to the ‘gentleman’s game’
The tournament is the culmination of 18 months of organisation by Stirling Hamman – a former barrister and stalwart member of the veterans cricket community. He came up with the idea in the back of a taxi in Trinidad while on a cricket tour.
“The reaction has been absolutely astounding,” Mr Hamman said. “It’s turned out to be a very happy itinerary and we’ve frocked it up with plenty of things for the teams to do.”
For Mr Hamman, the World Cup is also a chance to show cricket is still the ‘gentleman’s game’. “The people in our age bracket, the baby boomers, we played all our tough cricket in our 20s and 30s. And when we’ve left the game playing at that level, we’ve mellowed with age. There’s nothing ever personal. There’s this great sense of enjoyment … and always the emphasis is on fairness and respect.”
Fitness is key in your 50s
The teams will play some seven matches each over two weeks but for the victorious team, making the most runs or taking the most wickets only tells half the story.
“It will be last man standing,” Mr Hayes said. “It’s a big ask on the body when you’re 50-plus. “There’s going to be injuries; there’s going to be star players who might not be able to play every game.
Captain for the Sri Lankan team, Marlon Von Hagt, said he had been getting his teammates into the gym to build up their fitness. Mr Von Hagt played first class cricket in Sri Lanka and New Zealand before moving to Australia in 1994 and now lives in Melbourne. The World Cup team is made up of mainly Sri Lankan-born Australians living in Melbourne and Sydney, although two players will be flying over from their home country.
“You never forget how to bat or bowl,” Mr Von Hagt said. “We don’t forget our skills, but can you last the game in one piece and be fresh for the next game?”
The Over-50s Cricket World Cup starts on November 21 and concludes on December 5 with the grand final at Drummoyne Oval. The next World Cup will take place in Cape Town in 18 months time and is already being planned.
“You never know what’s around the corner at our age, so it’s best to grab the form now and not wait another four years like the big boys do,” Mr Hamman joked. “We’re living the moment now. We’re spending our kids’ inheritance and, while the stock market is holding, viva la over-50s cricket!”
(Story source: ABC News)