Former New Zealand Test captain Geoff Rabone turned 80 today, bringing to nine the number of former New Zealand players enjoying octogenarian status.

The secret?

"I think it's toast and tablets for breakfast," claimed Rabone, who, although he has not been in the best of health recently, is celebrating with a family birthday dinner and "one or two other functions over the next couple of weeks."

While Rabone, now living in Auckland, marked the milestone, fellow former national captains, Walter Hadlee and Merv Wallace who are now 86 and 85 respectively, are looking forward to being nonagenarians, while John Reid, at 74, is more active than ever in his role as Test match referee.

The longevity of New Zealand cricketers means that there are four Kiwis among the oldest players in the world, including the grand-daddy of them all, 93-year old Lindsay "Dad" Weir. Eric Tindill, the double international, Don Cleverley, and Jack Kerr are all over 90, and all played most of their cricket before the war.

Kerr cannot explain the long lives of his cricketing contemporaries, but his regime of jogging 20 minutes daily is what keeps him sprightly. A Test player from 1931-37, Kerr keeps handy a CricInfo printout of the world's oldest international players his daughter sent him. When he found out about the forthcoming Canterbury Cricket Association 125th jubilee he remarked, "That'll be a thing worth keeping going for."

For the sake of comparison, England's oldest Test player is Norman Mitchell-Innes, now happily retired at the mid-Wales home of his daughter. Mitchell-Innes, a mere stripling of 87, suffered badly from hayfever, which kept him to a single Test, back in 1935.

As a former president of the CCA, Kerr, who will be 91 when they take place in March, has an important role in the festivities. Fellow Christchurch accountant and team-mate on the 1937 England tour Hadlee will also be a key figure at the celebration. Another who will be there is Graham Dowling, from the generation after the 1930s Test pioneers, Weir, Tindill, Cleverley, Kerr, Wallace and Hadlee.

Another accountant, Dowling, and fellow ex-New Zealand captain, Barry Sinclair, both reach retirement age in the 2001/02 season. But while Dowling will be hanging up his pen as Bursar of College House in Christchurch, Sinclair is continuing to work as manager of an import-export company trading with the Pacific Islands.

New Zealand's other eighty-something Test veterans are Frank Mooney (80), Colin Snedden (83) and Roy Scott (84).

Matthew Appleby's book, New Zealand Test Match Captains, will be published by Reed in October 2002.