Shenfield’s Castell can defend a proud record as longest-serving club member

Shenfield's Ollie and Dave Castell

Shenfield's Ollie and Dave Castell - Credit: Archant

Dave Castell has been a member at Shenfield for the small matter of 44 years, making him the longest-serving at the club.

Signage outside Shenfield Cricket Club (pic George Phillipou/TGS Photo)

Signage outside Shenfield Cricket Club (pic George Phillipou/TGS Photo) - Credit: George Phillipou/TGS Photo

It all began with a last-minute call-up to help complete a side on Sunday and the 2020 Essex League season would have seen him plying his trade in the lower XIs at the age of 56.

And he has no plans to hang up his spikes just yet, hoping to follow the example of a past Shenfield legend who played into his 80s.

“My brother-in-law captained the Sunday 2nd XI and when he was one player short in 1976 he drafted a 12-year-old me into the team as the number XI,” he said.

“If I remain healthy I hope to remain playing and coaching. Shenfield legend Fred Bonney played into his 80s, he’s my role model!

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“When we stopped picking him regularly he gave up cricket and learnt to play golf.”

Despite his already lengthy playing career, which includes seven centuries and a career best of 143, Castell is far from complacent about his abilities and admits there is always more that can be done.

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“I’m determined to get another one soon. I’m still learning the game,” he added.

“I made a huge improvement when I was 30 – based on advice from an 18-year-old up-and-coming Essex wicketkeeper called Rob Rollins.

“I practise a lot in the off-season, looking to catch up for all the time lost due to poor technique prior to turning 30.

“And I made further improvements when I started coaching – being able to explain something simply is great self medicine.”

When it comes to nominating a cricketing hero, best teammates and toughest opponent, Castell revealed some interesting choices.

“I’m not an all-rounder, but I admire them. CB Fry was the ultimate all-rounder – a batting average of 50, twice taking 10 wickets in a match,” he said of his hero.

“He played in an FA Cup final (for Southampton), was world record holder for the long jump (7.17m), a Liberal Parliamentary candidate. But flawed – such as his meeting with Hitler. The great all-rounders usually do come with some baggage!”

For talented, spirited Shenfield teammates, Castell added: “Garry Sapsford from recent times, just so much enthusiasm radiating to the team.

“Former first-team skipper Dave Brook from earlier times for similar enthusiasm and guts. He was not afraid to take a bouncer on the body, rather than risk edging one off the bat.”

And as for naming a rival player to be wary of, he added: “Maxwell Crease of Woodford Wells. A big hitter (and former all-rounder). He can take a game away from you quickly if you can’t dismiss him.”

Talking of matchwinning displays, Castell had an intriguing tale to tell about an heroic effort of his own – which came some years after finding himself as the villain of the piece.

“We needed one to win off the last ball of a cup quarter-final against Fives & Heronians. I was on strike,” he said.

“I left it and waited for the umpire to call it a wide. He didn’t. For ages after that game I kept bumping into people I’d not seen for years – and who had no link with cricket – but they’d ask me what the hell I left it for.

“Many years later I played against Fives & Heronians for our 4th XI. Coming in at number eight we needed 120 to win.

“With nine wickets down we still needed 50 to win. A young colt called Alfie Dobson and I got it down to one to win off the last ball and this time we won.”

When Castell does eventually decide to hang up his spikes, there is a good chance the family name will remain on weekly scorecards, having been followed into Shenfield club colours by son Ollie.

“We started under-nines softball cricket at Shenfield when Ollie was seven. He was hooked from then,” he said.

“By age 10 he played for the Essex year group alongside Dan Lawrence, who is currently in the England training squad, and along with another colt in his year group, George Ballington, he founded the under-19s at Shenfield.

“Ollie was the 2nd XIs leading wicket taker last year and plays the occasional first-team game when they need a green-top specialist. In all he has over 150 senior wickets for the club.

“Ollie is a very good coach, nurturing the next generation of cricketers. He was the club’s head coach last year.”

Who knows, maybe he will have the odd tip for his dad....

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