Irony of over-60s cricket being played at Hospital Corner not lost on umpire

David Stuthridge. Photo: Geoff Sloan
David Stuthridge. Photo: Geoff Sloan
David Stuthridge acknowledged the symmetry when the heart attack survivor noted several of the pitches for the national over-60s cricket tournament were handily positioned at Hospital Corner.

That edge of Hagley Park was a focal point for long-retired first class players and far from household names last week, where Canterbury defended their title.

“Yes, you’re close to the hospital, so that’s one thing,” Stuthridge laughed, before taking on a serious tone.

The self-confessed one-eyed Cantabrian lost, by process of elimination, a selection exercise and had to turn out for a depleted and well-beaten Auckland, when the South Island played a division two match last Monday.

“I drew the short straw. Auckland had a couple of injured players and one of them had to return home for a family bereavement so they were a player down,” the 71-year-old explained.

“In the spirit of cricket we tossed a few coins around and I was unlucky enough to have to put on the Auckland jersey. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that would happen.”

Stuthridge ran himself out, though it was far from deliberate.

“It was only because I’ve got a calf problem. There’s been a few injuries, as you can imagine,” he said.

As a member of the walking wounded, Stuthridge was relieved to be umpiring at the tail end of the tournament, which ended on Thursday.

Canterbury, unbeaten since the tournament was first held in 2017, defended their crown on Thursday. The hosts included former first class spinner Andrew Nuttall, while rugby stalwart and cricket representative Brian Cederwall turned out for Wellington.  

There was no final in division one, but division two – for players aged over 67 – did have a decider where the South Island side comprising Canterbury and Otago beat Northern Districts.

While soft tissue injuries are commonplace, fortunately there had been no serious medical issues for a tournament where a defibrillator is part and parcel of the first aid kit.

Stuthridge had a heart attack 15 months ago so he takes the necessary precautions.

“I’ve just to take pills for the rest of my life and I have a spray thing. If anything did happen I’d get someone to spray under my tongue.”

Stuthridge, who racked up 500 games as an umpire in Christchurch club and 1st XI schools cricket last year, was among the experienced members of the officiating crew alongside former test umpire Evan Watkin.

And while the competitive juices still flowed during the 40-overs-a-side games, fielding was understandably no longer a fluid motion.

“Most teams still have quite good batsmen but the running between and wickets and the fielding are the main handicaps,” Stuthridge said.

“You don’t get people diving around in the field. You get them more falling over trying to get the ball.”

Otherwise the quality on display can be an eye-opener.

“There’s still some darn good cricketers around with good hand/eye co-ordination,” Stuthridge said.

“You’d be amazed how good some of them still are. John Cushen (a 70-year-old former Otago representative), he trains for this.”

Stuthridge said advanced age-group cricket was becoming more popular in New Zealand as veterans roll back the years. 

“New Zealand has an over-50s side that went to South Africa at the start of Covid for a World Cup. They only played a couple of games and had to come home again,” he said.

“In Australia over-70s is very strong, we’re only in the infancy stages of over-70s cricket here. I suppose at that age it’s tough getting enough people to stand up and keep hold of a bat.”

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