Glamorgan wicketkeeper looks back on a first class career

By Twm Owen in Cricket

CRICKHOWELL cricket ace Mark Wallace has discussed his highlights of an 18 year career in county cricket.

The wicketkeeper, who made his debut for Glamorgan as a 17-year-old in 1999, announced his retirement last week having scored more than 11,000 first class runs - more than any other glovesman in the Welsh side’s history.

Wallace, who captained the Sophia Gardens outfit from 2012 to 2015, also made 230 consecutive appearances for the county between 2001 and 2015.

During his career the 35-year-old saw the Cardiff ground transformed into a stadium capable of hosting Ashes Test matches and the introduction of year round contracts for cricketers.

"12 month contracts only came in about 10 years ago," said Mark who for the past four years has been the chairman of the players’ body, the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA).

"Before that players were only contracted for seven months a year so I’ve seen the full evolution of the game to it being fully professional and year round."

The year round nature of the game, even for county championship players, means Mark’s retirement has come at an unusual time.

"The season finished in September and we do light training up until about Christmas and it ramps up then towards the season and you’ll have pre-season games in March.

"So it is quite an odd time to retire as I’ve done all the winter training and it’s wasted work."

The former Crickhowell High School student, who grew up in the town where his parents Ryland - who has played over 60s cricket for England - and mum Alvine still live, is going to work full time with the PCA helping players with off field issues, including the transition to retirement.

The married father of two said he intends keeping his own career in perspective and will remind himself that as enjoyable as his job was it also involved long periods away from home.

"I’ve had lots of good memories," said Mark citing an 87 run defeat to Nottinghamshire in the YB40 one day final as a standout memory.

"I captained Glamorgan in a Lord’s final in 2013, that was probably right up there although we lost."

He also helped Glamorgan to the National League one-day title in 2004.

Of all his former teammates Mark said Glamorgan’s former overseas player Jacques Kallis was the best he played with.

"The best overseas player was Jacques Kallis. He ended up being one of the best of all time but I was too shy to say more than two words to him when we played together," said Mark.

Bizarrely the South African, who has been named one of the 100 greatest players of all time, even appeared alongside Mark in the red of Wales in a one day ’international’ against England at Sophia Gardens in 2002.

"We played a few games as Wales and they let us have one overseas player and Jacques absolutely hammered them," recalled Mark of the one day challenge match Wales won by eight wickets.

"The best Welsh player I played with was probably Robert Croft and I can say that now he’s no longer my coach and I can’t be accused of sucking up. He was a fantastic home grown player," said Mark of the bowler who played numerous times for England and who is now head coach of Glamorgan.

Read how Powys schools cricket set Mark on the road to a professional career in this week’s Brecon & Radnor Express - on sale now