IT'S a game where everyone gets a hit, batters must retire at 40 and bouncers are a no-no. But concessions to age are few in the Veterans Cricket Victoria league.
Sure, the seniors who pad up every Sunday aren't the young men they once were. But they more than make up for it with enthusiasm and love of the sport.
"The competition started with four teams playing in Victoria," said Greg Sebire, president of Bayside Veterans club in Highett.
"Now there's about 60 active teams with probably more than 1200 guys over 60 - and growing."
The competition fields teams graded 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-plus. There isn't an over-80s comp at the moment. "But given good health, we expect to see one in five years," Greg said.
Greg, 69, said cricket is great for seniors because it keeps them "off the couch, away from the TV and active".
As a teen, he played cricket in the Essendon competition. He returned to the sport five years ago and has represented the state.
He said a big selling point is that team members only compete against players 10 years younger or less.
"It's a really good thing if you've played and find as I did that I was no longer competitive playing against 20-year-olds - or that I had little in common with them."
The regular 40-over-a-side competition starts in October and runs until March. Matches are played on Sundays, usually from 11am-5pm. At Bayside, there's always a barbecue afterwards.
"It fills a whole Sunday in if that's what you want," Greg said. "There's a lot of wives come along and watch and participate afterwards. It's a really good social outlet for those that still think they can play sport."
Players have varying levels of ability, up to at least one long-retired Test player. But Greg, an executive at Veterans Cricket Victoria, said that shouldn't dampen enthusiasm if you're a late starter.
"We welcome all levels. At our club we've got two or three blokes that had never played cricket before, but the alternative to them was to play for the local bowls club.
"So they're playing cricket instead. They get a bat and a bowl and they get the camaraderie and the socialising."
As for those special rules, there aren't that many (though one other is that every team must field and use seven bowlers).
"There are no other restrictions except your own physical limitations, which means you can't run that fast," Greg said.
While the men might lack the athletic ability of their salad days, club matches are mostly light-hearted affairs.
Greg said he had never seen a batsman run three in a match; run-outs are contingent on fielders not fumbling the ball.
"And you can't really rely on slips fieldsmen to take catches."
Still, nobody takes it too seriously.
On the other hand, it's highly competitive at state level.
"We have a number of different carnivals and the national championships are in Perth this month. There'll be six teams from Victoria, six from NSW and lesser numbers from the smaller states."
The best players compete for Australia. A team recently returned from England after the "Grey Ashes".
But for many, the highlight is a week-long end-of-season carnival in Echuca bringing together teams from all over the state and beyond.
"There are teams from Mildura all along the Murray, everywhere in the state," Greg said.
He sees a great future for veterans cricket. "The word has spread and we're wanting to continue to grow the sport and get more guys that feel that now their career is over, here's a second chance at playing cricket."
If you're interested in wielding the willow again - or even for the first time - call Greg on 0429-087-579 or visit vcv.org.au
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