Geraint Jones is determined to be ready when the call comes to begin the exciting and potentially very challenging new chapter in his varied professional life.
‘I’m sure there’ll be nerves,’ said one of the heroes of England’s 2005 Ashes triumph. ‘My beeper will go off at home and I’ll have a mad rush to get to the station and see what happens from there.
‘They say the adrenalin is huge when that first one comes. I’ve done all the practice now but when it’s actually happening I’m sure there will be different pressure there.’
Former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones will soon start work as an on-call fireman
14 years ago Jones claimed the winning catch in England’s victorious 2005 Ashes series
Jones worked in catering and pharmacy before becoming a wicketkeeper-batsman
That pressure will have nothing to do with the wicket-keeping skills that saw Jones claim the iconic catch to dismiss Michael Kasprowicz and clinch the nail-biting Edgbaston Test victory in that most famous Ashes series 14 years ago.
For Jones, at 43 a business studies teacher as well as a school cricket coach, will be donning a very different helmet and gloves when he begins his additional role as an on-call firefighter with his local brigade in Kent.
‘People have asked why and I can’t really pinpoint anything specific,’ said the former Kent keeper-batsman of joining the service.
‘It’s just something that’s been there for a while. I looked into it when I was still playing but it couldn’t have worked out then.
‘Then I was driving by my fire station in Sandwich a few months ago. They had a banner up saying they were recruiting and it sparked that interest in me.
‘Last Friday I finished my training course and as of Wednesday night I’ll be available to go out “on the run”, as they call it.’
Jones says England’s 2005 success will with him forever and is a ‘huge’ part of his life
It is quite a departure from a cricketing career that brought Jones 34 Test caps, but he was never one for a conventional sporting life.
Born in Papua New Guinea to Welsh parents, Jones grew up in Australia and worked in catering and pharmacy before his cricket career blossomed at Canterbury. International honours followed when then-England coach Duncan Fletcher identified him as the modern batsman-keeper his side required. Now, alongside teaching at St Lawrence College in Ramsgate, Jones is close to completing on online degree in sports management but has found time in his busy schedule for this new adventure.
‘It will be a second job, so to speak,’ said Jones. ‘The school is my No 1 employment but I’ll be available to the service for 50 hours a week. When I get back from school I’ll be on call at the station from then until 5am.
‘Then at weekends and school holidays there will be more day cover. I loved the training. There were 22 of us on the course and we came together really close as a group. It was hard work and you need to be pretty physically fit but at the end of it even though I was tired it had been an incredibly fulfilling time. That fulfilment appeals to me along with the community aspect. And knowing that the service is quite stretched. Since I’ve gone along to training the teamwork has been huge. You can’t do anything without a buddy. It has to be incredibly tight and I’ve really enjoyed that.
‘You’re a crew working to fight fire or assisting at a road accident. The more I’ve done it the more I’ve been aware that you’re reliant on the group, whereas even though cricket is a team sport it’s an individual thing.
Jones says he’s now a ‘fan’ and understands the tension of following England as a spectator
‘With a fire you’re all in it together and need absolute teamwork to get the job done as well and as quickly as you can. With cricket it’s a batsman against a bowler, but when you’re on the end of a hose you need someone behind you because you’re relying on the guy sending you the water from the back of the pump. It’s a real chain.’
Not that Jones will be ready for full firefighting duties just yet.
‘I’ve passed a foundation course and now it will be a two-year process to get the qualification to be called competent,’ he said.
‘I’ll need to do various courses, like learning how to go into a building with breathing apparatus. Then I’ll need to do first aid and another in going to a road traffic collision. There will be two years of training to get to the required level.’
It is that sort of dedication that saw Jones earn his permanent place in English cricketing history with the class of 2005.
‘To be part of that team was amazing,’ he said. ‘It was a huge part of my life and 2005 will be with me forever. This year’s World Cup had that tension.
‘I look at cricket as a fan now and I had the emotions that people watching us had in 2005. I can now understand why people still come up to me 14 years later and talk so passionately about that summer.
‘They can remember where they were and so much about it.’
Not only did Jones play for England but in the later stages of a career that also took in a stint at Gloucestershire, he featured in the inaugural one-day internationals for his native Papua New Guinea.
Now they they have qualified for next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
‘To be part of the journey they started on in earnest in 2010 was amazing,’ said Jones. ‘And for the last eight or nine years they’ve worked incredibly hard. I played for Papua New Guinea when we got full ODI status and the difference that made financially means they have gone from strength to strength.
‘I played with quite a few of those still there and to see them now have a chance to go to a World Cup is fantastic. They will get huge support and I will say from this far out — watch their fielding. They are real athletes.’
Now Jones will use his athleticism to potentially save lives.
‘I have no plans to give up teaching,’ he added. ‘I see my two jobs sitting together really well and giving me that enjoyment of being part of a firefighting team.
‘I’ve got my beeper and I’m looking forward to doing some good in the community. The first time it goes off my heart will be racing for sure but I’m looking forward to it.’