Wales Over 50’s Cricket - A Quiet Revolution
Reflections from Paul Donovan - Wales 50s Senior Administrator
The rise of over-50s cricket is bringing former professionals and ex club players back to the crease and reigniting interest in the sport among older age groups. As an organisation the Wales cricket senior teams (Ov50s+ and above) are developing rapidly and with the profile of the last two Ov50s World Cups and the forthcoming Ov50s & Ov60s World Cups in November 2022 there is a huge profile across the world with senior cricket tournaments evolving in many countries. Many countries are touring now also which enables more interaction and if it was not for the pandemic there would be much more travelling & ODIs taking place at this moment.
It’s been a remarkable 9 years in the Ov50s cricket set up and really feel we’ve made progress over the past few years in promoting Welsh Cricket at this level. Starting off in 2017 where we staged the first ever ODI at Ov50s international level at Newport Fugitives CC v Australia Ov50s who were on tour to the UK. This day was a huge success both on and off the field and paramount to what came the next 3-4 years including an invite to the first ever Ov50s World Cup which was to be held in Sydney in 2018.
Also we have established annual ODIs versus England, competitive games versus IndiaUK and a recent 2 match ODI v USA so we really are giving older cricketers who have given much time to developing their clubs and junior sections a chance to play a high standard competitive cricket at the end of their club careers .
We had 3 Ov50s teams in 2021 and were all of a competitive nature with the 1st XI playing ODI’s and ECB competition cricket , 2nd XI in the Southern Counties league formed in 2009 and will be relaunched this year as the ECB 50+ 2nd XI championship with 18 counties; and our 3rd XI who played friendly cricket at club level which was again competitive and gave opportunities for guys to push into 2s and eventually 1st XI.
The standard and numbers are rising at Ov50s+ age group with counties 1sts and especially 2nd XI improving with more interest from ex pros /minor county players and ours is no different with 75 Ov50s registered this year. As a result of the media hype of Ov50s+ World Cups etc, several international Test, county & Minor counties players have come out of retirement, got fitter and started playing again which has pushed the standards up even more .
2021 was a great year for us where 1st and 2s managed to get out of group stages only to lose in quarter finals and semi-finals respectively. 1st XI were extremely unlucky having Hampshire 37/6 early on before recovering to reach their target of 149 for 8 wkts on a slow damp pitch in their quarter final.
Also in July there was a tournament in Marlborough which we were invited to, where England, India & USA Ov50s were also competing and promised to be a great international ODI event. However the covid restrictions stopped some overseas India players and all of USA travelling and therefore became a England, Wales, IndiaUK and England Lions Tournament. This did not drop the standards much to be honest and at a wonderful venue to play cricket a week of high intensity cricket was played which challenged players ability and fitness. We held our own in all fairness and although not winning the tournament we reached the final of the T20 tournament losing to England. Unfortunately we picked up a few injuries to some key players that week which did not help us in later season but was a great advert for Ov50s cricket.
At end of the season we played games versus IndiaUK and 2 ODIs v the travelling USA Ov50s and these games were watched by good crowds and again very competitive.
There’s a real good feel around Ov50s+ players who have competed against each other for years coming together shoulder to shoulder to play for their country. There really is a great feeling and we are promoting that as much as we can as we recognise the importance of the wider positives and values in this arena
Most of these guys have been stalwarts within their clubs either being a Club official or in a junior coaching capacity so it is great to be able to give something back to them at whatever team level they play. Also the friendships made with other countries/counties is amazing and a real good factor off the field but highly competitive edge on it. The ECB 50+ County Championship has been running since 1984 and has 39 Counties plus the Channel Islands participating each season),
We believe that over-50s cricket can help to bring about a revival of the sport at a grass-roots level. in the UK, the club teams that have traditionally put out one or two teams every Saturday, into competitions and leagues, are slowly diminishing and the people who are holding the remaining clubs together are the 40- to 60-year-old age groups. They are playing, sitting on committees, running the bar and making sure that the kids are getting the right kind of coaching and participation whilst keeping theirs clubs afloat. We (Ov50s) also benefit personally from their involvement with cricket as we are living longer, so it is very important that we stay fit and active and have a reason to go to the gym or other forms of exercise. Also, as we get older, it’s great to have new targets and ambitions.
When people think of Ov50s+ cricket, they might imagine a bunch of geriatrics running around, but we believe the skill levels are same but we’ve got slower. Bowling is slower but more accurate, but with the experience of the players more variation causes difference level of skill sets. Fielding is obviously where our skills lower but players work on differing fielding styles to overcome.
Our governing body Cricket Wales has been superb in helping us along the way and I know they are keen to support with developing further. We would also like to mention all the clubs who have supported us this season with their grounds as it has been a really difficult period with Covid and weather conditions being difficult to predict. Where other counties in England struggle for grounds we get great support from the network in Wales. This have been an extraordinary quiet revolution happening in the background, but this genie is very much now out of the bottle and long may it continue to grow.