Former England captain Mike Gatting is urging the local community to lend a helping hand at Heywood Cricket Club later this month – insisting he loved every minute of his time spent there.
The 14th annual NatWest CricketForce will take place between March 27-29, with this year promising to be another blockbuster event with more than 2,000 clubs registered to take part.
Tens of thousands of club members and volunteers will come together to clean, tidy, repair and revitalise clubhouses and cricket grounds across the country ahead of the new season.
It was back in 2013 that Gatting rolled his sleeves up and got stuck in at Heywood Cricket Club, and the ECB Managing Director of Cricket Partnerships admits he hopes they get stuck in again this time around too.
“There were so many clubs that stuck out to me last year and so much fantastic work has been done over the years,” said Gatting.
“The biggest thing that gives me pleasure from helping out is hearing from the hundreds of clubs involved.
“We get loads of reports as the summer goes on that the clubs have a new lease of life, with new sponsors, volunteers, members, and the players are happier as well and that was certainly the case for Heywood.
BUILDING BRIDGES: Cricket helps kids form invaluable bonds, says Gatting (right) alongside former England bowler Matthew Hoggard
“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 two or three hundred there. They were building a huge patio alongside the pavilion. They’d also done all of the windows in the pavilion as well with double glazing which looked really smart. “
And Gatting, a former England captain, is adamant this year’s Natwest CricketForce will benefit more than just the clubs themselves.
“I hope we’re helping the communities as well as the clubs,” he added. “Kids want to go to clubs, and have fun with their mates in a safe area.
“It’s all about the community for cricket clubs, and in some places the clubs can stop kids from being out on the street and doing drugs, in gangs, and other terrible things.
“So these kind of schemes make a difference from that respect too, and it’s nice to think we can help kids move down a different path to all that.
“Cricket is one of those games where you make friends for life, build bridges, and learn a lot of life skills as well. That’s really important so local councils and communities acknowledging that it does make a difference and getting involved themselves is what it’s all about.”
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 and lend a hand at ecb.co.uk/nwcf