This week the ECB highlighted and celebrated the unsung heroes of the game at the 2018 NatWest OSCAs.
The annual awards at Lord’s rewards the volunteers who put in countless unpaid hours in the service of club cricket across England and Wales.
England captain Heather Knight
For England captain Heather Knight, it was an opportunity to recognise those people whose work otherwise might go under the radar: “It’s great to meet everyone who has been nominated – for some of them it’s their first day at Lord’s.
“I spoke to one lady from Lincolnshire who can’t stop smiling. She only started playing when she was in her forties because she had four kids who wanted to get into cricket.
“It’s nice to reward the people that put in the hard yards in often unglamorous jobs, to have a day like this is special.”
Winners included Jonathan Caldecott, who received the Outstanding Contribution to Coaching OSCA for his work developing disability cricket in Shropshire: “Most of my life I’ve dreamed of something like this. I’m so proud and deeply honoured.
“As a young man I was taken to my first match by my blind grandparent. I was his eyes so I had to tell him what was going on in the field of play. That was my first experience of disability cricket and it’s grown from there.
“The group of people I work with, they are just fantastic. I don’t see them as any different from myself. They are just people, just cricketers. That is all they want to be treated as.”
A number of volunteers were rewarded for their work promoting girls and women’s cricket, including Amy Carnwell of Oakamoor Cricket Club who won the Young Volunteer OSCA: “I’ve spent my whole life at the club as my parents have been involved for many years. I now coach the junior teams and I’m the junior co-ordinator at the club. I try to get everyone to play in the women’s soft ball tournament and I’ve also started an under 11s girls team in the last year.
“Cricket is a great sport. It’s not only a healthy activity, it teachers you great life lessons, respect and discipline. My life is down there. You can see players and kids develop and it’s quite beautiful.”
The Asian Sports Association collected the OSCA for Women’s Soft Ball Cricket Festival of the Year due to the work of Mira Patel and Amna Rafiq. As Mira explains, “We ran our festival as a community event and we wanted to encourage women across Leicester to take part.
“They brought their family, friends and daughters along and it was such a colourful day – from Bollywood songs for the warm-up, colours being thrown everywhere and dancing – it was a big cricketing party.
“Cricket is a game for everyone. There are so many women out there who love cricket. We are giving them the opportunity to do their own thing, have fun and play the game.”
The prestigious Lifetime Achiever OSCA went to Tony Banks of Springhill Cricket Club, who was overwhelmed by the award: “For your own members to put you forward is lovely. It’s brilliant and for me personally, I’m over the moon.
I do it for the love of the game, the love of the ground and the people. You get some amazing rewards over the years: we’ve had a lot of people join us from deprived backgrounds and initially they won’t talk to people and are reticent in every way – in some cases they haven’t got jobs. But they learn to interact with different people, the game brings them together and they grow.
“A lot of them now have jobs and I think that is down to cricket and the socialisation you get from a team game. I’ve genuinely believe that. I try and help and I get huge gratification from it.”
Heather Vernon – Officiating OSCA winner
Heather Vernon picked up the Officiating OSCA for her work with Warwickshire County ACO: “I’m a bit stunned really. I just get on and do what I do but to get acknowledgment like this is just out of this world, it’s just fantastic.
“I started out making cricket teas and then, because my youngest son was playing, I began scoring. As he moved up from the village second XI I moved with him and I wanted to learn how to do this properly. I got some training and it snowballed from there. I love it and I’d encourage anybody to have a go. It’s a great way for people, who may not get to get to play at a high level, to be involved in the game.
“We come from all sorts of different backgrounds, for all sorts of different reasons but we’ve all found this love of cricket. For every player, male or female, that walks onto the pitch, behind them are a whole host of people getting the ground ready, making the teas, doing the organising, collecting the money. And they do it because they love the game.”
What a day!— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) 9 October 2018
Congratulations to all of our 2018 #NatWestOSCAs nominees and winners – and thank you again to the volunteers everywhere who make such a difference in our game! 👏🏏 pic.twitter.com/fh5QYPu9lV
NatWest OSCAs 2018 winners
All Stars Cricket Centre of the Year – Downend Cricket Club, Gloucestershire
Leagues and Board – Peter Wreford, Arden Sunday Cricket League, Warwickshire
Women’s Soft Ball Festival of the Year – Asian Sports Association, Leicestershire
Coach of the Year – Anna Tunnicliff, Kent
NatWest CricketForce – Stiffkey Cricket Club, Norfolk
Vitality U19 20, Club of the Year – Oakley Cricket Club, Hampshire
Young Coach of the Year – Erica Turner, Northamptonshire
Heartbeat of the Club Award in partnership with Hardy’s – Alison Slack, Fishlake Cricket Club, Yorkshire
Young Volunteer of the Year – Amy Carnwell, Oakamoor Cricket Club, Staffordshire
Officiating - Umpires and Scorers – Heather Vernon, Warwickshire County ACO
Outstanding Contribution to Coaching – Jonathan Caldecott, Shropshire
Outstanding Contribution to Disability Cricket – British Association for Cricketers with Disabilities (BACD)
Lifetime Achievement Award – Tony Banks, Springhill Cricket Club, Staffordshire