Hi Gladstone! We all know about cricket success, but what are you working on right now?
After 20 years of playing, I retired from professional cricket in 1999. I then worked with the Professional Cricket Association, the PCA, which is the players’ union that looks after all the professional players in terms of health welfare, education and career advice. Becoming a cricket coach wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to stay in the game, so I thought that the next best thing was to stay around the business of the game through the PCA. I was a full-time employee and board member for 10 years, and now I am currently an ambassador representing the PCA at various events involving their business partners and the game sponsors.
I do give some time to charitable causes and in particular Prostate Cancer UK, where I am an ambassador for their Stronger Knowing More campaign, aimed at highlighting the heightened danger to Afro-Caribbean men of contracting the disease.
Who does the PCA mainly focus on?
The PCA acts mainly on behalf of all the current professional cricketers, both male and female, representing the players’ views across a wide range of issues. Of all the supporting services they provide, the Benevolent Fund makes many important contributions to those in real need of assistance.
What made you start playing cricket?
I was born and grew up in Barbados, where cricket is almost akin to religion. My grandad was the person who gave me the love for the game. As a little boy, I was always playing whenever I could; on any spare bit of land, the road, and the beach. The only day I wasn’t allowed to play was Christmas day.
I was 13 and was just getting the run of the island, going to school, playing cricket, having great friends, when my parents who lived here in the UK, dragged me to England on a cold, dreary September day forty odd years ago.
Do you think cricket made the transition easier?
Oh, certainly! Absolutely, if I hadn’t played cricket I would have gone back to Barbados as soon as I could. Playing sport is such a wonderful natural way to make friends and mix socially. I played at the school in Birmingham and I got picked up in the school system at 16, playing in the age group leagues and also old schoolboy’s club side. So when I was offered professional terms I just thought “oh well, this isn’t too bad, as this means I’m going to play more cricket”. That was my motivation then, I just wanted to play cricket. I was very fortunate to have the ability to get to the top of the sport and perform there.
Is it more to keep in touch with the passion and love you felt when you started playing when reaching a certain level of success?
That’s a really good question, I don’t think I have ever been asked that before. You still feel the love, and that’s the key ingredient when you are required to be fully dedicated to whatever you are doing. Absolutely, you never lose the love, but it does get tested as there are pressures and expectations when you are competing at a high level. It’s a different kind of love because you are now playing professionally, so now it’s your job. You are being paid, and if you play poorly or don’t show full commitment, the fans often remind you what’s at stake. There are pressures involved both internally and externally, and you have to learn how to cope with those pressures. You have to keep learning and improving in order to succeed in any high-performance environment.
Does the PCA help those players who are starting to reach that kind of level?
Yes, they are much more in tune with advising and supporting players now than when I started out. When I played for England, the main man was the captain – though we did have a manager and coach, and a physio, but that was it. Now there’s a whole team of backroom input to rely upon that includes bowling, batting, and various fitness specialists, masseurs and nutritionists. When I started, apart from the help from senior players in the team, it was mainly down to your own devices and your own personal ambitions.
Do you feel like the love you have for the sport is more unconditional now when you’re not playing professionally?
I still love the game, and I’m keen to see it grow in popularity. It’s somewhat different now with the shortened formats taking a stronger presence than the more traditional style that I first grew up around. But the skill levels are all very admirable – especially the inventive strokes and outstanding fielding displays.
I don’t like playing it anymore as it hurts like hell. Particularly because I was I fast bowler, and the body wasn’t designed to bowl a cricket ball with all that twisting and jarring. When I meet up with old colleagues, the first thing we talk about is our injuries and the last medics we visited or what medications help best. But hey, if I had the chance I’d do it all over again.
Home House Magazine, Issue 7, 2017.