Cricket Diary: Press pack palaver and getting down to the grass roots

I just had to collect my press accreditation for the Champions Trophy from the Kia Oval (or whatever it’s currently called). Once there I was subject to a security check more like passing through airport immigration, even though there was no match being played. After recent events in London, maybe one could be forgiving towards this draconian attitude.

Having presented proof of ID, I was given an ICC goodie bag consisting of my press vest, jacket and cap – and a large mug-sized “Thermos”. Not much faith in our summer weather at the ICC then.

So from the sponsorship-heavy formalities of high-security south-east London Test grounds, it was a relief to head off to watch some club cricket to try and spot some up-and-coming players for the future. This can be quite thrilling to watch – depending on who is playing. I’m building up a mileage that even Gulliver would be proud of.

This time my travels took me to picturesque Richmond in the Middlesex league. They were playing host to last season’s championship winners Winchmore Hill, with former Surrey and Middlesex opener batsman Scott Newman among their number. Captain of the side is Jim Gatting, son of former England captain and advocate of good umpiring Mike Gatting.

Both these sides have four to five sides playing on a Saturday and at least two on a Sunday. This is something that bodes well not only for the development of cricket at the grassroots, but it creates an infrastructure that counties can use to nurture future talent.

Though there are hundreds of leagues all across the country, counties mainly pick and choose from their main regional one.

But having played in the Essex league for over 20 years, I have found that apart from a few clubs in the premier divisions, the rest seem to be falling by the wayside due to a lack of players. This in turn makes financially viability an issue for the clubs. Though lottery funding is available, it is no mean task getting hold of it. But that only covers playing facilities – it cannot guarantee membership subscriptions.

And one thing I find not only discouraging but discreditable in club cricket is the setting up of segregated leagues dependent on ethnic backgrounds, limiting interaction with teams from different competitions. This is extremely detrimental towards the game itself and limits chances for younger players to go on to play at higher levels.

Oh and by the way Richmond thrashed the reigning champs by about 90 runs. Cricket’s future does look bright ... in certain areas.

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