“Paceman cricket fans saw screaming in pain after his kneecap gave way mid-match is back in the limelight two decades later”
“More than 22 years after being stretchered off a cricket field in a heap, David has become Goliath.
This is David ‘Syd’ Lawrence, the former England fast bowler who is now a champion body-builder at the age of 50.
Many will remember the agonising footage of Lawrence in a crumpled heap in Wellington after his left kneecap gave way in 1992, leaving him writhing in pain with the screams to match.
It effectively ended his cricket career, and many believed this strapping barrel-chested athlete would never be seen competing again.
Fast forward two decades and that same figure is in the peak of physical condition and he has been named the National Amateur Body Building Association’s West of England champion for the over-40s.
It is a remarkable journey, and one that still has its element of pain.
Lawrence said: “I went to a competition in my mid-forties with a friend of mine who was competing and I looked at the people on the stage and I thought, ‘I can do this’.
“But after turning my hand to it, I discovered the hardest part wasn’t the weights and training in the gym, by far the toughest part was the 14 weeks of dieting before competition.
“It is the toughest thing I’ve done mentally and physically and that is the difference between guys who want to get big and look good, and guys who are serious body-builders and want to compete.
“You are getting your body down to zero percent fat, taking on no carbs, and that is how you get the aesthetic look that shows off every muscle.
“I must admit if I knew how strict the diet was when I started I probably wouldn’t have done it! It is torture.”
And that is where his years of hard work as a fast bowler come in handy.
It is tough being a fast bowler and whether it was for Gloucestershire or for England, Lawrence was never afraid of a bit of graft.
And you thought Sir Ian Botham was Beefy!
“Before this, fast bowling was the most physically demanding thing I had done,” he added. “I have worked as a labourer, I’ve worked on building sites in Australia in the heat and put in a hard shift. But it is not the same as fast bowling.
“Bowling on a hot summer’s day is seriously tough, and at 5.30 when Goochie comes up to you and says, ‘Syd, give me three more’ and you’re dehydrated, you’ve got cramp… but you’ve got to muster up something and that is physically demanding.”
Lawrence played five Tests for England, but the knee injury in New Zealand took it all away from him, and he admits he struggled to come to terms with the loss.
He sank into a dark place and could have become an ex-cricketer with a very different story.
But a new career as a nightclub owner and restaurateur in Bristol gave him a focus, and he has now turned his energies to body building.
Lawrence said: “I look back on that period around my injury and my subsequent retirement and I went through some seriously dark times.
“If I analyse it now, I would say that I went through a bout of depression.
“It wasn’t something that was as understood as it is now, but it was a dark place. Something had been taken away from me and I couldn’t understand why. I got very low and was left wondering, ‘what do I do now?’
“Eventually I realised that I just had to get on with my life. I became a bit of an entrepreneur and I’ve got no complaints at all, I’ve been very lucky really.
“I’ve won the West of England title for over-40s twice and the over-50s once, and I’ve competed in the British finals where I managed to finish eighth.
“But I was disappointed because I wanted to finish in the top six so I could qualify for the worlds.
“That is the target for next year. I want to be at the world championships in Dublin and test myself against the best. I’m 50 and I feel great.”
David Lawrence on… Kevin Pietersen
“I was up in arms over his take on the quota system. I thought it was outrageous that he had come over here when he should have been in South Africa trying to promote the game and play for them because if you’re good enough you will play.
“However reading his book he apologises for that and how it played out and that kind of turned me because here is a guy who can hold his hand up and say ‘I didn’t understand it, I was young and foolish and I regret it’.
“I take my hat off to him for saying that and I admire him for admitting that because he didn’t have to. You have to appreciate where you come from and if someone asks me who are you and where are you from, I’m English West Indian. I’m not going to denounce my Caribbean roots, I’m proud of them.”
David Lawrence on… today’s England team
“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see England do well, and it has been sad to see the recent events with all the in-fighting and pettiness between the players.
“You get thrown together in a cricket team, not because you like each other but because you have the same talent and then you try and get along.
“The management has a job to do there and I think it has been weak. You have to understand each individual and work out how to get the best out of them. One rule for everyone doesn’t work.””