Geraint Jones: Jeepers keepers

Kent's former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones finds refuge from the pressure of cricket by also being a pig farmer. Will Hawkes chews the fat with him before today's Friends Provident final
Click to follow
The Independent Online

in terms of inspiration, Geraint Jones can take his pick when pondering the men who have gone before him as Kent wicketkeeper. There's Alan Knott, the England stalwart of the 1960s and 1970s, Godfrey Evans, whose dramatic exploits enlivened the Test scene in the 1950s, or even Les Ames, the brilliant pre-war wicketkeeper-batsman. Jones, however, has recently been inspired by someone slightly different: the television chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The reason is simple. Jones, who played 34 Tests for England before falling out of favour during the ill-fated Ashes tour of 2006-07, has turned his hand to farming. He owns an eight-acre smallholding a few miles east of Canterbury and was inspired to invest in a handful of sheep and pigs after watching Fearnley-Whittingstall on television. "Once I finished playing for England I realised I needed to do something outside of the game to help me deal with the pressure," he said.

"I got interested from watching River Cottage [Fearnley-Whittingstall's TV programme]. That got me excited about being able to do it. I've heard he's a big cricket fan as well, so that helped!

"Once I started, I got hooked. It helped that my wife, Jen, is from a farming family." His Kent team-mates have appreciated his new sideline, despite a few initial jokes at the 32-year-old's expense. "The boys rated my sausages very highly!" Jones said. "It's enjoyable when people say how nice the food that you've produced is – it gives you a bit of a buzz.

"It is getting round the county circuit, what I do in my spare time. It's great – it really helps me unwind after a day's cricket."

Cups, not chops, are on Jones' mind at the moment, however: Kent face Essex today in the Friends Provident final at Lord's. The sides have played each other five times in limited-overs cricket this season (three Twenty20 games, two Friends Provident), with Kent 3-2 ahead.

Jones said: "We've got batters down virtually to No 11 – we've got strength in depth in both batting and bowling. One-day cricket is our strongest suit: the guys in the side have got a lot of experience. There is such a wealth of talent.

"Essex really rely on their spinners – James Middlebrook and Danish Kaneria. They've played really well on their home wicket at Chelmsford, but if you get them away from there it's different. Graham Napier can be very dangerous – he can take the game away from you."

Jones has enjoyed some fine days at the home of cricket, not least when he took five catches and then hit a vital 71 as England tied with Australia in the final of the one-day series in that memorable summer of 2005. "I was man of the match," he said, "although I came in when we were about 50 for 5, so I don't particularly want to repeat that!"

Extra motivation for Kent to win today will be provided by their narrow defeat to Middlesex in the Twenty20 Cup final (Kent won the competition in 2007) and their subsequent exclusion from the Champions League tournament, which is to be played in India in December, for using two players – Justin Kemp and Azhar Mahmood – from the rebel Indian Cricket League.

"The Twenty20 Cup defeat is definitely in the back of people's minds. There is still that bitter taste: nobody wants to have a season where you come second in everything."

Least of all, it can be assumed, the Kent captain, Rob Key, who has been vital to the club's success over the past two seasons. "He is not a captain that shouts and screams at you," Jones says. "Rather than being a dictator, Keysy is a communicator. He has shown here at Kent that he has the aptitude to lead England."

Jones is an observer of the national side these days, but he understands what Tim Ambrose – the incumbent, much-criticised Test keeper – is going through. He said: "I have a lot of sympathy for him. hope they give him a bit more of a chance, because chopping and changing is not good for anyone."

This is not to say that Jones wouldn't relish the chance to take Ambrose's place, despite admitting that the pressure got to him during the last few months of his England career. "I didn't enjoy it at the end – but I definitely aspire to get back in the side."

Whether Jones achieves that ambition or not, he will always have his new career as a farmer to fall back on – or maybe not. "I was chatting to one of the local farmers today and he said I should go into farming after cricket – but it is quite hard work! I'm not sure yet. I'm enjoying it as a hobby at the moment, so we shall wait and see."

Playing fields: Farming sportsmen

Colin Meads

Born 3 June 1936. Sport Rugby union.

Club King Country.

Sporting credentials Meads played for the All Blacks 55 times. He was named New Zealand Player of the Century in 1999.

Farming credentials Meads was raised as one of three children on a sheep farm near Te Kuiti. Meads believes his upbringing helped in the development of his physique. He still lives in rural New Zealand, running a sheep farm.

Julian White

Born 14 May 1973. Sport Rugby union.

Club Leicester Tigers.

Sporting credentials White has 44 caps for England and three for the British and Irish Lions. He is one of the most powerful forwards in the game, famous for his scrummaging skill.

Farming credentials He runs a 250-acre livestock farm near Market Harborough in Leicestershire and sees his future in farming when he retires from the sport

Eddo Brandes

Born 5 March 1963. Sport Cricket.

Sporting credentials Brandes played 10 Tests and 59 limited-overs internationals for Zimbabwe, spearheading Zimbabwe's bowling attack for over 10 years. First Zimbabwean to take a hat-trick against England – in 1996.

Farming credentials Brandes ran a chicken farm outside Harare before emigrating to Queensland to work as a cricket coach.