Former Cricket Star, 82, Defies Terminal Illness on the Pitch


At 82, Alec Steele, an indomitable former Scotland international cricket player, bears the burden of a terminal diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The prognosis of this disease, which erodes lung functionality, typically spans between one to five years. Undeterred by the encroaching shadows, three years into his diagnosis, Steele defies mortality, keeping wicket in Dundee with an oxygen tank diligently keeping his company.

“A positive attitude is indispensable,” insists Steele. Despite the ominous threat of a terminal illness, he remains unwavering in his ambition to reclaim his place on the cricket ground. His resolve is underscored by a resolute determination to never yield.

The post-diagnosis journey was an uphill battle, physically and emotionally. Steele’s lung function plummeted to a dismal 30%, transforming even mundane tasks like climbing stairs into herculean undertakings.

Nevertheless, Steele stood his ground during his stay at the Royal Victoria Hospital’s palliative care unit in Dundee, adamantly expressing his desire to regain his physical prowess for one more game. Following months of rigorous rehabilitation and recovery, Alec realized his dream during a match at St. Andrews.

“The privilege of crossing the boundary rope and stepping onto the pitch was a profoundly wonderful experience, one that I’ve not had the pleasure of relishing in a while,” he recalls. The definitively victorious experience taught him two critical lessons – how to catch a ball, and providing a glimpse of his wicket-keeping prowess.

Since that inaugural match, the octogenarian has shown no signs of slowing down. Steele is on the home stretch of his second season with the aid of his trusty oxygen companion. He carries an indomitable spirit to the pitch, intending to be at the stump when the spring arrives next year.

Forfarshire Cricket Club’s veteran league player’s resilience is captivating, a man who continued playing until 64, with his international career traversing renowned grounds such as Lords and The Oval. In the face of his cricket prowess, he didn’t falter in prioritizing his architectural career despite the lure of English county cricket.

Cricket has undeniably been a reigning passion in Alec’s life. Simultaneously, he aims to leverage his narrative to shed light on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, terming it a “ghastly disease”. Steele admits that pre-diagnosis, his knowledge about the disease was virtually nonexistent.

Now, he relies on oxygen supplementation for 16 to 24 hours daily and requires extensive recovery periods post-matches. Still, Steele exercises vigilant control over his thoughts, persistently warding off negativity. His initial match at St Andrews saw him play 10 overs of cricket, an effort he quadrupled in his latest match on a Sunday. His tale serves as a beacon of resilience and tenacity, underlining the power of a decidedly positive spirit.


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