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Digging in for NatWest CricketForce

Posted in England in West Indies 2009

NatWest CricketForce is so heartwarming - seeing so many volunteers giving up their time to improve their club is wonderful.

In my role at the ECB I work with so many other people to improve facilities, to give kids the chance to play at better grounds and in a safe environment, but to see club members working their socks off over the three days was fantastic.

Mike Gatting

Getting stuck with the spade - a common sight at clubs during NatWest CricketForce weekend

I went to Ashtead in Surrey on Friday of NatWest CricketForce weekend where they have a lovely new pavilion. I helped dig a trench so they could get some electricity to the nets so they could run a bowling machine. That was tremendous.

We then went to Highway in Warwickshire the next day where they had an excellent community facility which had football, cricket, netball and bowls. They were doing loads of tidying up, transforming old ramshackled halls and trying to put patios down. Even college tutors came down from Derby with their students to help out. They were plastering walls - it was a great chance for them to practice on something other than in the classroom. It was amazing to see how much work could be done in a day.

On Sunday I went to Ipswich. I found that fascinating. They started in 2003 with one ground which they got from a helpful local farmer - now they have a second pitch and are planning a third. It's a wonderful club. They have four Saturday teams, a women's team and lots of youth sides - that takes a lot of volunteers to run that.

Whilst I was there they built a scorer's hut, a big patio which will double up for functions and installed a new electronic scoreboard. The ladies in the kitchen were walking around with tea and sandwiches for the workers.

I helped dig a patio which surrounded the barbecue. I did a lot of digging that weekend. Thankfully it didn't do the back any harm!

Halfway through the afternoon, just as we were laying the slabs, they started putting the coals on the barbecue! That burned for the next two or three hours.

There were loads of people there and seeing families with kids playing was really encouraging. The facilities were being improved and the locals were becoming aware that it was a friendly and safe place.

I hope the legacy they leave at Ipswich is a long one.

That weekend marked the end of a busy couple of months which started in Barbados where I managed to fit in seeing some of the Test.

During the match at the Kensington Oval we donated a couple of kitbags from the Lord's Taverners to two under-13 sides. It was tremendous. The West Indies Cricket Board isn't particularly well off and the kids love the game over there. They are trying to reinvigorate cricket - it needs to rediscover its sparkle as it was dulling a bit with football and basketball edging their way in. Hopefully giving them some new kit will help some youngsters find that sparkle again.

Barbados is a lovely island and the people are always so friendly.

The cricket was disappointing though. It was a flat wicket and the game was dominated by the bat. Both sides were disciplined when they batted and there was never a real chance of a result.

It was sad to lose the series having lost the First Test. When you play a four Test series and that happens it's always difficult to come back. One session madness can always lose you a Test and that's what happened.

It was disappointing from that point of view but it is never disappointing to go to Barbados.

Mike Gatting

Swapping the spade for some plastering during a busy NatWest CricketForce weekend