Anyone who watched the 2005 Ashes should be able to close their eyes right now and not only picture Simon Jones detonating Michael Clarke’s off‑stump at Old Trafford, but also conjure up the noise it made on impact.
Clarke may disagree, but there is a case to say that corky wooden clonk is one of the sweetest sounds heard on a cricket field. For Jones it was certainly a highlight in an all‑too-brief England career of 18 Test caps that was blighted by injury. A crucial five for 44 in the first innings of the victory at Trent Bridge was his last time on the international stage, as first ankle bone spurs and then persistent knee problems cut short this fire-breathing Welsh dragon and purveyor of 90mph reverse swing.
Now 42, Jones says he would not swap his four years in an England shirt for 100 caps without that epic series featuring among them. But what it did do was highlight how professional sportspeople can see their livelihoods change in an instant, something that is now driving his second career arranging insurance cover for players.
“When I started my playing career back in 1996, there wasn’t any awareness of how important protection is,” Jones says. “I officially retired from first-class cricket in 2013 but in 2005 I was at the peak of my powers and on good money with England. But then I did my knee in India that winter and the following year lost my central contract. Who knows, I might have lost form anyway. There are so many variables. But the message is, I wish I’d thought about protecting myself and that income.”
The landscape has changed significantly since 2005 and our chat over the phone on Thursday was sparked by Jofra Archer’s recent injuries, both the smashed fish tank that led to finger surgery and the longstanding elbow problem that has required cortisone injections. When asking a leading agent whether, hypothetically, Archer would be able to claim insurance on his £800,000 deal with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League should he be ruled out, I was told Jones might be worth speaking to.
After he hung up his boots in 2013 following Glamorgan’s defeat against Nottinghamshire in the YB40 final, Jones worked as an ambassador for the Professional Cricketers’ Association, had a spell with a signage company and tried his hand at school coaching; by his own admission he was something of a lost soul during this period of adjustment. But 14 months ago he joined the insurance broker Kerry London Ltd and appears to be relishing his role as a business development executive.
“It’s the first time since finishing where I’ve had a job that’s made me feel fulfilled. I’m passionate about people protecting themselves against injury. We don’t think twice about insuring cars and houses but as a sportsperson, your body is your most important commodity. A lot of pros put these things off until tomorrow but I know from personal experience that tomorrow could be too late.”
As well as cover for career-ending injuries, the rise of franchise Twenty20 tournaments around the world has led to more and more players insuring short-term deals. Jones understandably declines to name Kerry London Ltd’s clients due to privacy but confirms a number will be featuring in the IPL that begins next week.
The initial quote takes into account a player’s age, injury history, their role in the team and the value of their contract, before a more detailed medical questionnaire establishes the final figure. There are usually two types of policy, either covering a player up to the start of a tournament – when, if fit, they often receive half of the money from their team up front – or full coverage through to the final ball being bowled.
Using Archer as an example, a freak accident such as the cut from the smashed fish tank would typically be covered, while a problem such as the elbow may, given past issues in the joint, either be excluded from the policy or push up the price of the premium. Ultimately it will come down to the small print.
Full transparency from both parties is key and issues have arisen in the past, such as when Australia’s Mitchell Starc lost out on a £1m deal in 2018 IPL because of a fractured tibia but was then forced to pursue his insurance payout legally. The matter nearly went to court, only for an unspecified 11th-hour settlement to be reached.
While the premiums vary depending on the individual, they are often not cheap and a player will have to make a call on the risk of going without. “I would never put pressure on someone to take out a policy,” says Jones. “It comes down to personal choice and often depends on the size of their contract and the best figure we can get them. But given some of the sums involved, I’d suggest it’s normally not a risk worth taking.”
Does he envy the current generation and the career options now available? “No way. Cricket is one of the hardest sports both physically and mentally, so to see these men and women earning good deals around the world, I think it’s brilliant.
“And [other than injury] I wouldn’t change my playing days. That England team in 2005 was like a family. We played for each other and if I ever see one of the 12 guys who played that series now, it’s like we’ve never been apart. I also love what I’m doing now and I hope I have a job for life.”
And that famous ball to Clarke? “People tag me in to videos of it on social media and I don’t always reply because I don’t want to be an attention seeker. But I never get bored of seeing it. It was more than the one ball too, it took 10 or 12 reverse outswingers to get him shouldering arms to the one that came in.
“But yeah, it made a nice sound, didn’t it?”