James Fenn from Walthamstow Cricket Club on how it has rebounded from the pandemic to play out a curtailed season
Amateur cricketers are creatures of habit. Which pad you strap on first, which seat you choose in the clubhouse, the unique mark in the pitch you create when you take your guard. Even the game itself has remained broadly the same for 300 years. Cricket is exciting and dynamic, but it also holds on to its traditions tightly.
So, in this year that has thrown the world upside down, how could a sport with such rigid traditions adapt to the ‘new normal’? And how could amateur cricket, run by volunteers motivated by nothing more than a love of their sport, possibly carry on?
For Walthamstow Cricket Club, based near Wood Street Station, the answer was a lot of hard work. Avi Sarkar, our membership secretary, said: “Back in April, I think if we were being honest, not many of us thought that we’d be playing any cricket at all this summer.
“Even as the situation in the country improved, working through the incredibly detailed guidance from the ECB [English Cricket Board], while trying to keep the club going financially, was extremely challenging for a group of volunteers.
“We don’t have lucrative sponsorship deals like other clubs, so when cricket stops, our revenue stops. Thankfully, we were able to apply for a selection of short-term grants and, by being flexible with our pricing structure, have been able to keep going and even attract some new members.”
All the hard work has paid off for the club, which has been able to offer training and matches for five adult sides, plus a juniors team. There were some unique new rules, including sanitation breaks and no access to changing rooms, but even a pandemic couldn’t stop this historic club.
On the pitch, results were inconsistent. The first team struggled to cope with the loss of a few key players. Rain was also a huge frustration, with weather leading to the abandonment of several games in an already shortened season. But for captain Nick Porter-Ch’ng, it is all a matter of perspective. He said: “We haven’t been happy with results on the pitch so far, but I think we all agree that just being out there represents a great success.
“Our ambition is to provide cricket to people of all abilities and backgrounds in Walthamstow, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to make that happen in such trying circumstances.”
In the end, fortunes on the pitch turned around, with the season ending on a particular high for the second XI, who were crowned league champions. Captain Deepan Kandeepan dedicated the winning campaign to his team and said: “The boys consistently played like champions throughout the season. I have been blown away by their team spirit and winning attitude. It was a pleasure to lead the side, they deserve all the credit.”
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