Veteran Lionel Cann stepping down from club cricket
Fresh from the news that a former player-coach in Clay Smith is returning to the East End, St George’s can begin the search for a new Cup Match captain in earnest after Lionel Cann announced his retirement from top-flight cricket yesterday.
Cann, who was recalled by St George’s as captain in 2019 at the age of 46 for a third stint at the helm, confirmed that he is moving away from club cricket.
“I’m definitely not playing any cricket this year,” Cann told The Royal Gazette. “The decision was made this year. My life is different now; it’s too hot and I don’t have the commitment.
“I don’t wake up and say ‛I’m going training’, I don’t have that passion any more. To talk about giving up a whole Saturday and Sunday, my life is past all of that now.”
Cann, one of only five players to score more than 1,000 runs in Cup Match — 1,199 from 40 innings with a highest score of 104 — says the Covid pandemic last year helped him put life in perspective.
“My life changed, and now other things take up my time,” he said. “I’m not passionate about cricket any more.”
Cann steps away from the game with no regrets, having enjoyed long careers in both the Eastern Counties and Cup Match, as well as representing his country in the World Cup in the West Indies in 2007 after being a part of the team that qualified in Ireland in 2005.
“No way, none at all in cricket,” he says of the regrets. “Cricket helped me through life. It’s time for the youngsters to move forward and step up. I can’t keep being there.”
Cann also spent six years coaching at Warwick and two years playing for St George’s in the league before returning to St David’s in 2019.
“Coaching has never really been my passion, but I’ll be helping out now and then doing some batting with the St David’s players. But full-time coaching, definitely not.
“I played football and cricket non-stop for 35 years, it’s time for a break,” he said. “I stopped playing football and then was refereeing.
“I’ll probably be knocking around with the Commercial team, De Wicketest, who asked me to come play with them. I’ll play a bit, but without practising. Just showing up when I can.
“I wake up in the morning, go to work, and evening time if I don’t feel like doing anything I don’t. I knock around with a little golf now and then as I like golf, but now it is time for me to relax and do what I want to do when I want to do it.”
After playing for St George’s in the league in 2017 and 2018, helping them get promoted, Cann was also in the St David’s that reclaimed the Eastern Counties Cup with victory over Cleveland in 2018. He scored 62 in his 50th appearance in the competition.
He wasn’t able to help St George’s end a winless streak in Cup Match that now goes back ten years to 2011. That year, ironically, he scored the winning runs in a knock of 49 which sealed a thrilling two-wicket victory for the East Enders.
Cann rescued St George’s from 84 for six in pursuit of 148 for victory as he and bowler Stefan Kelly carried the team to victory, with Cann ending the game with a six and a four off successive balls from Malachi Jones.
Before scoring his lone Cup Match century in 2009, Cann also suffered the disappointment of being dismissed for 99 the year before in Somerset.
Just what Cup Match and Eastern Counties will look like this year is uncertain, as both events get set to return after missing last year because of Covid.
“They are starting the season so late because of the restrictions and it is unfortunate they still want to have county and Cup Match because you need time to get ready,” Cann said.
“If they do decide to have it, I don’t think the level will be where it should be. But everybody is grasping for some cricket, the national team has commitments coming up and they have to get out in the middle and do some things.”
He added: “Hopefully everything goes well and everybody stays safe. I won’t be sitting off all day watching games, I’ll be doing other things.
“My life is different now. I actually look back now and think about all the sacrifice and commitment that went into cricket, Tuesday and Thursday training, and then giving up all day Saturday and Sunday.
“However, I was one of the fortunate ones, getting to the pinnacle of the World Cup, so it was worth the commitment.”