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Raj Nath: "We’re making sure we’re here for clubs"

over 3 years ago | Interviews

The current suspension of recreational cricket has left a great void in many people’s lives. It’s not just the game itself that’s being missed, but so much more: weekends spent under the sun with friends and that sense of community that cricket clubs provide.

Make no bones about it – those clubs are suffering from the ongoing financial fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “If you think about how clubs generate their funds, it’s very much at the beginning of the season,” explains Raj Nath, one of Middlesex’s participation managers. “Clubs gain memberships from playing adults to social members, to the junior members. A lot of that income is generated right at the beginning, which helps clubs pay for groundsmen. How are we going to keep paying our groundsmen who still need to cut the grass every week?”

Of course, ground maintenance is just one of many worries. Nath, who helps with the cricket development and support of around 30 clubs across five boroughs, explains that clubs are fearing the possible effects on membership next year, too, and are particularly threatened by the possibility of a drop in junior participation. There are existential questions facing many clubs, and this is where Nath and Middlesex’s participation team have stepped in.

“There are four area managers that are currently helping clubs affiliated with Middlesex Cricket,” Nath explains. “It’s our duty that we help them and guide them in the right direction.”

That direction involves pointing clubs towards government assistance, grants from Sport England, and the ECB’s emergency funding schemes announced last month to protect the recreational game during the coronavirus crisis.

But beyond the issue of finances, Nath is determined to ensure that cricket clubs retain their sense of community, which feels ever more important in this time apart from the game.

“At my own club we’re making sure we’re contacting our past and present players that might live on their own or might be in the vulnerable category,” explains Nath. “They might not be able to go out and do their weekly shop so we’re contacting them just to make sure they’re safe, they’re well, they have the supplies they need to keep themselves nourished. We’re asking about their mental well-being and just checking in and having a conversation so they can talk to someone. We’re doing this and also making sure that the clubs we look after are also doing the same.”

Nath, who also looks after the organisation of transition programmes such as the Middlesex Youth Cup and Middlesex Development League, understands the implications of the current crisis for kids missing their fix of cricket. A year on from England’s 2019 Men’s World Cup win, this should have been a summer to inspire even more children to take up the game, something the ECB had in mind with the Dynamos Cricket programme which was set to begin in May. A glance at the Middlesex participation team’s Twitter account (@MiddlesexCB) suggests that such hopes aren’t to be dashed so quickly. On the account you can find video tutorials for drills to try out in the garden and other cricket-related activities. Ever fancied playing a Middlesex-themed version of Top Trumps? You’re in luck.

These are methods the participation team hope clubs can replicate to allay their existing fears of diminishing junior sections next season.

“We’ve been coming up with ways to get people to stay active at home through drills they can do in the garden or in the hallway,” Nath says. “We’re involved on social media to provide activities for junior players to do, engaging with their parents so people know that while they can’t play for their cricket club, they can still play in the garden with their family. We’re making sure that clubs are aware that they’re doing these things so they don’t lose junior players and members.”

Nath’s role sounds all-encompassing in a time when cricket clubs requires so much assistance. He talks of looking through club’s accounts while helping them with applications for grants and liaising with local councils to check that grounds clubs rent are being looked after. His message is simple: “We’re giving as much support as possible to the clubs and making sure that we are here for them.”

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