Jones trains sights on playing at 40
Having seen his England career seemingly end, Geraint Jones could be forgiven for retiring from the professional game.
Yet the wicketkeeper-batsman, who has made more than 100 consecutive County Championship appearances, is determined to represent Kent into his forties.
Jones, whose birthday is in mid-July, signed a two-year contract at the end of this season that will see him play until he is 38.
He hopes to extend that deal, and an unbroken run of 101 championship matches, as the one-county man comes towards the end of a career that included 34 Tests and 49 one-day internationals - the last of which was almost six years ago.
A potential obstacle to Jones playing at 40 is the emergence of former England Under-19 Sam Billings as a rival at Kent. The 21-year-old has healthy first-class and List A batting averages, with a century and fifty in each format, although he is of course yet to feature in in the championship.
Jones’ championship playing sequence began when he was dropped from the Test team midway through the 2006 summer series with Pakistan after 31 straight caps.
He was recalled for his last three Tests that winter in Australia, by which time he time he had played in Kent’s final six championship games of the season.
Fast forward to September 4 this year and - versus Derbyshire at Canterbury - Jones became the 10th Kent player to achieve the feat of 100 consecutive matches and the first for 60 years.
He could still have been short of the milestone if he had not begun the sequence with a broken finger sustained in his last home Test, and is unlikely to match the current 183-game run of Glamorgan gloveman Mark Wallace.
However, a full quota of appearances in next year’s championship will move him to sixth in Kent’s list, which is led by James Seymour with 196 from 1902 to 1911.
Jones, who made his senior Kent debut aged 24, told ecb.co.uk: “I’m lucky I’m quite naturally fit. Touch wood, I’ve managed to avoid injuries and even when I’ve had finger injuries, I’ve played through them.”
If Jones’ longevity is largely down to his remarkable fitness, which he is maintaining by playing hockey for Canterbury Griffin, a first-class career batting average of 33 has helped too. This year it was 42 and he was second in the overall Clydesdale Bank 40 averages with 152, on the back of five not-outs.
Explaining how his hockey hobby began, he said: “The family down there is the Laslett family. Down in Canterbury they’re synonymous with hockey and I was just chatting to one of them there and just expressed an interest and it went from there really.
“It’s a game I’d never played before. I had two games last year. Before that I’d never played as a kid and it’s just a new sport and I love it - training Wednesday nights and playing on a Saturday.”
Although he was an Ashes winner in 2005, Jones has had little recognition from opponents on the hockey pitch.
“A lot of people probably don’t recognise me, which is good in a way. But if they do ... I haven’t been taken out so far,” he joked.
Jones has several hockey-playing team-mates, past and present, including Kent captain Rob Key and Nottinghamshire skipper Chris Read - whom he competed with for a Test place.
“Chris Read plays a lot of hockey,” he said. “I remember him missing fitness tests before a tour because he’d gashed his shin open off a hockey stick.
“Keysey always says how good he is at hockey. He’s just had a hernia op so he can’t come out and prove it at the moment. He’s supposed to be a good player.
“Alex Blake, he’s actually playing for Beckenham over the winter as well. Matthew Walker, who I used to play with, he captained England Schools at hockey.”
Between hockey matches and while completing his benefit year, Jones is considering his career beyond professional cricket.
On Monday he began a six-week internship with a London-based company that generates sponsorship in the sports sector, during which he will work in the activation, consultancy and commercial divisions.
That opportunity came through a contact after a discussion with the Professional Cricketers’ Association personal development officer Simon Ecclestone.
“I sat down with him in August and just said ‘I love sport and want to get involved in sport but I’m not sure what’s my best area, what I’m best at’. That’s when we came up with me getting hold of a sports company,” Jones explained.
While Jones is wise to plan ahead, he has no intention of ending his playing days soon.
“I still have a goal to get through as close to 40 as I can. That means another three years minimum,” he said.
“That’s still a personal goal for sure. It’s not like next year’s my last year. I’ve just signed a two-year contract. I’d like to get as close to 40 as I could and in the meantime use my winters to get myself ready if that doesn’t happen.”