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As part of Surrey’s Cricket in Retirement campaign, we spoke to Pat Pocock. The former Surrey and England off-spinner represented the county from 1964-86 and played 25 Tests for England and has since remained close to the game while enjoying a varied career as a businessman and entertainer.

This picture shows Pocock (centre) coming off the field for the final time at the end of his career in 1986. Photo courtesy of Richard Spiller.

What comes next?

Some cricketers retire in a blaze of glory, many others having to leave the game before they’re ready. Bodies can get broken along the way, sometimes hearts too.

Pat Pocock was one of the lucky ones, choosing the time of his retirement – just a few days before his 40th birthday – after a career which had stretched more than two decades. The off-spinner’s 554 first-class matches had yielded 1,607 wickets, playing 25 Tests and captaining Surrey in his final summer. His seven wickets from 11 balls against Sussex at Eastbourne in 1972 remain a world record.

He had founded Pat Pocock Associates nine years earlier, going on to establish a connection with the Spanish resort of La Manga which would prove profitable to both parties over many years.

“It was the offer from La Manga which decided me to push the button on retiring. I’d flown over it and thought it looked ideal for a couple of cricket grounds,” he recalls.

The resort has become a sporting mecca for so many – whether it’s simply to relax, play at one of the golf courses or enjoy so many of the other activities there, including tennis and cricket. Working in tandem with Lancashire’s Jack Simmons, Pocock is proud that nine counties have enjoyed pre-season trips to Spain.

The Henry Cooper Golf Classic in 1996 and a golf & tennis event centred round Cliff Richard are among his greatest memories and Pocock took on his expertise to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Known to all in the game as “Percy”, he belonged to a generation who were contracted by counties for six months of the year. They reported back on April 1, fitted in up to four competitions and then, on September 30 were despatched into the outside world. There might be some winter nets but other than those chosen for England trips overseas or those that found themselves invited on private tours run by the likes of Derrick Robins, they had to make a living.

Pocock’s winter activities included a spell as a lorry driver while on one occasion he picked up a gig opening a supermarket in Ewell, mainly because the fee he received was somewhat lower than the Brooke Bond Chimps.

The smart or perhaps fortunate players established second careers which could run parallel to playing days, businesses which could be developed later on. Others were forced to sign on during the dark months. Tax-free benefit years, generally awarded after a decade of service, offered a financial cushion and those whose playing days stretched long – like Pocock – could gain a testimonial too. As a talented singer, he has contributed to many events for others.

So 12 month contracts, introduced in more recent times, have many benefits although Pocock is worried about the side-effects, explaining: “It bothers me that you have lads who reach 34 or 35 when they finish playing and who have never done anything else. I have a huge fear of what happens to some of them because they are competing for jobs with people who might have degrees or have already established themselves.

“But players can also earn far more now than when I was playing – you can make fortunes if you’re an international or going round playing in franchise tournaments.

“Sam Curran’s IPL deal is worth more than I earned in my whole career!”

cont. below…

This picture shows Pocock (left) chatting away during his playing days with Mervyn Kitchen (right), a former opponent and by then an umpire). Photo courtesy of Richard Spiller.

One day you’re in, one day you’re out.

Those who have envied the close-knit camaraderie of a county team can only imagine the feelings of a cricketer when his playing days are over. The dressing room door shuts for the final time, whether it’s at the end of a long career or a brief stay in the game, and now you are outside it. The laughter, jokes, squabbles, team meetings and moans about the coach are all between others now.

No wonder so many find it a tough transition to make to normal life.

“It’s been proved that ex-cricketers have more suicides than other sports because of the nature of your lifestyle as a player,” says Pat Pocock, who spent more than 20 years on Surrey’s playing staff in a career which included 25 Tests.

“You spend so much more time with your team-mates than in other sports – they are the first people you see in the morning and last thing at night when you are away, which is quite a lot of time during the season. Then it can all be gone.”

Some stay involved at professional level as coaches for counties or at schools, others join the media or extend careers by playing at National Counties or club level.

Maintaining contact with old colleagues and opponents is possible in several ways, one of them through the more sedentary pastime of golf.

The County Cricketers Golf Society is open to anyone who played at first-class, List A or T20 level for a county.

Members wielded their clubs for the first time on October 19 1935 at Camberley Heath GC, on the edge of Surrey. Since then it has grown steadily, a long list of annual fixtures including clubs and societies around the country.

Surrey have their own old players society, who meet up to six times a year, Pocock adding: “It’s a great chance to see people you played with or against and keeping in touch with them. It’s a great way to spend a day and relax.”

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This picture shows Pocock during his playing days on-field at The Oval.

It’s important to stay connected.

Pat Pocock was the most sociable of cricketers during his playing days, so it’s no surprise that he has maintained that trait in retirement.

Having played more than two decades – taking in 554 first-class matches and 25 Tests – the man known throughout the game as “Percy”, even using it as the title for his autobiography after he retired, Pocock was on the field with hundreds of colleagues and opponents.

Staying in touch takes many forms and the Covid19 pandemic made that even more important. Isolation and the feeling of being cut off is something from which ex-cricketers suffer more than other sports, given they live cheek by jowl through much of their careers because of the travelling.

Social media, for all its ills, plays a part in connecting old friends and Pocock has developed his own network: The Raisers. It’s passed 100 members now – it’s founder is very proud of that, having never reached three-figures with the bat – which include the likes of former England captain Mike Brearley, Gladstone Small, Jimmy Cumbes, Micky Stewart, Bob Taylor and Tony Cordle, the former Glamorgan seamer who now lives in Canada. Qualification is having played at least 10 first-class matches.

“We’ve got Ian Greig in Brisbane, Tony in Canada and people all over the world,” says Pocock, who adds: “The idea is to keep people in touch with each other. Quite a few were anyway but some weren’t.

“I send out an email every day about what’s going on and note birthdays to celebrate – then at dinner time, wherever The Raisers are in the world, we raise a glass, whether it’s a soft drink or a glass of wine or whatever.

“It’s not just ex-players – I wrote something the other day about Geoffrey Howard. He made a wonderful contribution as secretary of Lancashire and Surrey and he was manager of several England tours.

“I send out the email and then replies come flying back. And every email includes the addresses of all those receiving it, so messages go flying around between the members. A couple of people joined but couldn’t see themselves getting very involved and they’re among the most active!”

We’ve been speaking to Percy as part of our Cricket in Retirement campaign.

Throughout the campaign we want to show how the community of cricket can be of benefit as people leave the world of work and enter their retirement years.

We don’t want to limit those stories to former professional players though, so if you, or anyone you know, has a story you would like to tell, or would like to simply share your experiences of the positive impact cricket has had in your retirement years, please email with your name, age and a bit about why cricket is such an important part of your life.

To read more about the campaign click here