Namibia’s Journey To The Over 50 World Cup

As a fifty-something in today’s world, life often presents more of the same, few new challenges, and, could even be experienced as un-rewarding. One is seen by one’s children as old and over the hill.

Grandchildren are dropped off at your house on Friday evenings so that you can baby sit and change nappies. You go to work in the hope of accumulating enough wealth to one day retire with enough. Going to the gym, walking, jogging, cycling, golf, bowls, yoga or some other form of physical training are seen as necessary to keep a healthy mind and maybe add a few years to your life.

Some people in their fifties no longer have a vision for themselves or their family, the children have left home, often robbing one of the last meaningful things one lived for. Waiting for retirement to come along and wondering what was in store for the next no-one knows how many years.

“If you are over 50”, does this sound familiar? After speaking to quite a few over fifty cricketers at the tournament, this was true in their lives, but, the Over 50 Cricket World Cup gave them a new lease on life, a reason to get excited again about life, a reason to gym and get fit, a new vision for life, a meaning in a meaningless world.

The Journey
It was early to mid-2019 when the news started filtering through, Namibia have been invited to send a team to the 2020 Over 50 Cricket World Cup. This was the start of a journey that would bring old friends together, opponents from the past were now batting for the same team and going through the motions in the gym was replaced by a renewed energy. Suddenly there was a new reason for living. Names that had been in the sports news in the 1970s, 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s were again appearing on cricket score sheets, perhaps not getting the same results as before, but once again feeling the buzz of competing.

This newfound youth, however, was not without some pain and suffering as knees were operated on, physios were visited in order to treat muscle injuries that had not been felt in decades. Net sessions were held at Wanderers on Wednesdays, at “our house” (Daneel’s house) on Mondays, Britsie’s on Thursdays and Sparta whenever Willie could make it.

One thing was evident through all of this, a visible improvement was seen each week, however, the most pleasing development was the way individuals were coming together as a team, with WhatsApp posts reflecting this.

So, with 15 players and a manager who according to him would be an invalid for life if he was forced to take the field, we were set to go participate in the Over 50 World Cup as an Invitational side. We boarded Westair flight WV002 at Eros airport bound for Oranjemund to clear passport control and then on to Cape Town.

Unaware of developments on the ground, Oranjemund was to give us a taste and warning of things to come when the plane door was opened and then suddenly closed again. The pilot announcing over the intercom that there was a “slight Corona incident” at the airport and we had to follow the instructions of security personnel into the airport building, not to make contact with anyone, clear immigration and board the plane again. Thankfully the scare was only that and the suspected victim tested negative.

Arriving at Cape Town International Airport, we got our two busses for the tour and headed to the hotel to meet with the other members of the team who were already there. With hardly any time to unpack it was into our rooms and straight into the meet and greet. A first look at our opposition over the next two weeks with seven games to be played in twelve days.

A massive test for our “aging” bodies. One of the highlights of the meet and greet was the introduction of the six ambassadors Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Peter Kirsten, Mike Proctor, Omar Henry, and Dave Richardson. Graeme Pollock bringing a huge laugh with his account of the first time he
batted with Mandy Yachad for Transvaal. Yachad was a fit youngster who ran many two’s and three’s. After the first over with Yachad doing this Graeme Pollock called him and said, “This is not an athletics meeting, if you run three and I run two, you will only get two and be run out.”

After a good night’s rest and tasty breakfast, we headed off to the WPCC Vineyard field to face Pakistan in our first-ever Over 50 Cricket World Cup game. At the field we met up with Brennan, our TLO and Loren, the best Physio one could wish for. Brennan was good fun and full of energy from the start, while Loren knew she was in for a hard few days when she had to treat quite a few of us before the warm-up session.

Eventually after National Anthems and hand-shakes, the game was set to begin. Pakistan losing finalists from the first Over 50 Cricket World Cup batting first. After getting off to a fast start, a fine Daneel catch at backward point and fine bowling from Dee we had Pakistan at 95/5 and looking nervous, however the 45 overs took its toll on us and we dropped a few catches, letting them off the hook to post a decent 261.

Our run chase never got going and we were eventually all out for 95. The reality hit home and we realized that we were probably slightly under cooked coming into the tournament, especially playing against opposition who played in local veteran’s leagues that had more teams entered than all the leagues in Namibia combined.

Room 266 (we need not expand)
Thursday was a relaxing day, with Loren treating everyone that had injuries (too many for comfort), not to mention a net session Birkenstock blow to the back of Willie’s head, and chilling at the hotel.

Friday 13th was one of the games we were really looking forward to. Playing against Wales, all of us excited to hear them sing their National Anthem live, and Daneel wanting to sing along. We were not prepared for the amazing reception we received at Reddam House School, who had gone out of their way to make the facility world-class and we had young pupils accompanying us for the pre-match formalities.

An amusing exchange took place just after the start of the game when Leeba said to those present that during the first game we (management) had made a few mistakes. Brennan in disgust asked him “who’s your we, it was you.”

We batted first and a patient 50 by Basie who was also Wales’ best fielder on the day was not enough to post enough runs to place Wales under pressure, their opener batting through to give them a comfortable victory. It was probably one of those tosses we should have lost and fielded first.

Then came one of the highlights of the tour, Reddam House School hosting a five-star braai for both teams with enough beers and wine for all, the food including wors, mutton chops, pork rib, Salmon and crayfish tails rounded off with amazing salads and bread. A spread fit for Kings and Queens.

After the meal, we had the honor of the Welsh again singing their Anthem
(accompanied by Daneel) and a couple of other traditional songs before we reciprocated with the Suidwes Lied. The members of Reddam House School parents who had hosted the braai saying after this that their friends would never believe what they had just witnessed. Definitely one of the highlights of the journey.

After returning to the hotel we got together in the lady’s bar (bar at the hotel) for a while before some of us joined the Welsh for a sing-along that lasted long into the night. This was a true celebration of what Over 50’s Cricket is all about.

Saturday broke with breakfast and more physio before moving to the Waterfront’s Grand Beach for a lunch gathering that was, due to increasing Corona awareness not compulsory for anyone. This was a nice “kuier” for us as a team, exchanging stories and having a few good laughs. However, the Corona shadow was cast over the tournament with uncertainty gripping everyone due to sporting cancellations world-wide.

The popular theory being that we would complete the round-robin portion and the two top teams would meet in the final. Sunday 15th we played England at the WPCC club. They obviously have a wrong impression of what over 50’s cricket is all about, doing a pre-match warm-up that was reminiscent of the Namibian National Team at the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Batting first, we posted what we thought was a competitive score of just under 140 (including an Over 50, 50 for Gavin) on a pitch that was not easy to bat on, staying very low.

During the lunch break Barry Richards called both teams together to give us the news that after consulting with the medical team, a decision had been
taken to call off the tournament with immediate effect and we had to return to the hotel to await further communication. This was like a hammer blow to all involved as we were warming up to the tournament and the feeling was that we improved with every game. We were also like a band of merry men who were inseparable when off the field. Being complimented on this by Stirling Hamman who is Chairman of Over 50’s Cricket.

That evening we had a team dinner at Cowboys and Cooks who had lovely food and wine. It was the last time we were together as a team which was bitter sweet. Monday 16th, the day we were due to play India, we said goodbye to Louis who drove back to Windhoek. Melt, Gavin and Rudi who flew back to Windhoek and Pretoria respectively and Ashley joined his family, while the rest of the team had a final get together, courtesy Jean Engelbrecht, at Rust en Vrede wine farm, a truly amazing setting with excellent food and wine which was enjoyed by all.

Shaun Mc Culley joined us at this lunch and was re-united with Basie Buitendag, the two having played more than 70 rugby games together for the national team, indeed an honor to witness. At the conclusion of the lunch, Leeba and Etienne flew back to Windhoek, Lennie went home, Francois joined his wife for another wedding and Basie headed off into the
Winelands to question why he never studied at Stellenbosch and supported the Stormers.

This left a small band of merry men to enjoy the last night together at the Lagoon Beach Hotel. Daneel, Willie, Gielie, Dee, Zafar and Trevor, first having supper at a restaurant somewhere in the Cape before ending up at the Ladies Bar for a last get together with our friends from Wales and a couple of other countries. Stirling Hamman addressed the group that had gathered, saying how this showed the spirit of the Over 50’s Cricket World Cup where the few of us who were left at the hotel came together to enjoy the last few moments of fellowship.

What was a fitting end to the proceedings was the Welsh holding a capping ceremony where the umpires who came with them were capped, and then their manager, Michael was capped for the 2018 and 2020 Over 50 Cricket World Cups. Tears flowed freely during this ceremony which showed the pride with which each participant attended the tournament.

Tuesday morning, was the last farewell as Gielie joined his wife in the Cape. Daneel, Dee, Willie and Zafar were dropped off at the airport along with the busses where they enjoyed a last glass of the fantastic product the Cape has to offer. Trevor stayed on to spend a few days with family in Cape Town.

On Sunday 22nd March, Francois and Basie with wives in tow and Trevor boarded the last flight from Cape Town to Windhoek before the Corona isolation started. The final act of what had turned out to be a bizarre tour. One that never continued or concluded as we had planned or expected. One that was cruelly cut short by a global disaster, and yet, one that has taken the lives of sixteen men and fused them together in a bond of friendship and respect that surpasses any expectations and has shown us all that there is hope and expectation even if you are fiftysomething.

Bon voyage, farewell, happy travels until we meet again.

Written by Allrounder, Trevor Britten

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