Updated: Saturday, 15th August 2020 @ 6:31am

Howzat for community spirit? Ex-England cricket skipper Mike Gatting gives thumbs up to record-breaking project

Howzat for community spirit? Ex-England cricket skipper Mike Gatting gives thumbs up to record-breaking project

| By Paddy von Behr

Former England captain Mike Gatting is urging the local community to lend a helping hand at Heywood Cricket Club this weekend – insisting he loved every minute of his time spent there.

The 13th annual NatWest CricketForce takes place with Heywood one of a record-breaking 2,014 clubs registered to participate in the three-day event.

From Friday April 4 to Sunday April 6, thousands will come together to clean, tidy, repair and revitalise clubhouses and cricket grounds ahead of the new season.

Heywood will be among that number on April 5 and a year after being graced by the presence of Gatting as he rolled his sleeves up and got stuck into the work needed.

And Gatting, who played 79 Tests and 92 ODIs for England and is now the ECB’s Managing Director of Cricket Partnerships, admits he couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

“Heywood is a typical Lancashire ground,” he said. “It’s a ground which is the same size as the Oval. They had all these wonderful wooden seats all around the ground which needed to be replaced.

“Our job for the day was to paint all the benches, so we took all the rotten stuff out and then painted all the new seats. When we finished that we cleared the banks of weeds and painted some fences.

“The turnout at the ground was huge – there must have been 200 to 300 there. They were building a huge patio alongside the pavilion.

“They’d also done the windows in the pavilion with double glazing which looked really smart. They built a barbecue on it and by the end of the day they were using it and drinking under the umbrellas.

“When you sat on the patio and had a few beers and looked at the ground with the entire bank done and the seats painted it looked spectacular.

“Lots of people stayed on late into the afternoon for the social event and it was a special atmosphere at the club.”

And with severe storms having battered England during the winter, Gatting is adamant this year’s NatWest CricketForce is more important than ever.

“It is wonderful news that a record-breaking number of clubs have already registered to hold a NatWest CricketForce event,” Gatting added.

“In particular, the challenges presented by the nationwide floods at the start of this year, means that the 2014 effort is more important than ever before. 

“Cricket clubs across the country represent the lifeblood of the sport, and it is hugely important that we all pull together and look after playing facilities.”

NatWest CricketForce is an ECB project helping cricket clubs renovate and improve their facilities before each season with the help of members and their wider communities. Find out when your local club event is (4-6 April), and lend a hand at ecb.co.uk/nwcf

Main image courtesy of LordsTavernersUK via YouTube, with thanks.