Former England captain Mike Gatting is encouraging communities to lend a helping hand at their local cricket club.
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.
ECB Managing Director of Cricket Partnerships, Gatting, 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 said. “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.”
It was back in 2013 that Gatting rolled his sleeves up and got stuck in at Sawley & Long Eaton Park Cricket Club and he 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 Sawley and Long Eaton.
“The club itself is situated in a park with two or three pitches and we certainly worked on two of them. There were two clubhouses and on the day that the bigger one was being worked on I was painting sightscreens on the second pitch.
“It was in such a big park that there were people out walking dogs and the like. We got well looked after by the ladies there who made sure we were supplied with cups of tea all the way through.”
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