Changing lives through cricket

17th Aug 2016
Changing lives through cricket

A fierce Test match may have been taking place on the field, but Saturday 13 August was about so much more than Younus Khan’s majesty and Pakistan’s spirit. From young fans in blue caps, to volunteers shaking buckets of cash, to policemen playing impromptu games on the concourse and ex-England captains auctioning their own signed ties for £500 a pop – as Alec Stewart did to great uproar – all of those present in south London could feel a part of something important and even beautiful. Now in its fourth year, Cricket United is going from strength to strength. “Looking at the ground today,” said Paul Robin, CEO of the Lord’s Taverners, “it’s clear that Cricket United is really starting to take off and catch on. I’m not sure there are any other sports that have cricket’s ethos and history of sportsmanship and support for each other, and I think Cricket United demonstrates that in a perfect way.”

The former England batsman James Taylor was a constant presence throughout the day, giving a powerful interview on Sky Sports alongside Graeme ‘Foxy’ Fowler in which he outlined the crucial work carried out by each of the charities. “The whole day’s been a great experience. All three initiatives are such important charities, three great causes, and to see the Oval turn blue with about 90 per cent of the people dressed in the blue of Cricket United for these serious causes is very important for cricket itself.”

“In terms of what it does for us as a charity,” added Paul Robin, “we’ve all got different messages but we’re all doing things via the cricket family to help people who need it. Cricket United gives us profile, and it gets the word out about the difference we’re making for kids. I think cricket as a sport has to compete with all other sports, so we need to work together in partnership for the good of the game.”

England’s stars, who each wore Cricket United-embossed shirts for the day, which will be auctioned off for Cricket United on eBay, may have traipsed away from the ground feeling that the Test match had gone. But this day – which began with both teams handing their light-blue Test caps over to beneficiaries of the charities as a sign of the game’s gratitude for all the work that’s put in – was a triumph regardless of who wins and who doesn’t, for here was a celebration of the game, the game that sustains us all.

If you are unaware of Cricket United, it is a simple idea. Three charities, one aim: to change lives through cricket. Lord’s Taverners, Chance to Shine and PCA Benevolent Fund joined forces on Saturday 13 August, Cricket United Day, to raise funds and awareness during the final Investec Test at the Kia Oval. Funds raised from the signed shirts and all fundraising from the joint appeal are split evenly between the charities and used to change the lives of a range of cricket beneficiaries; from children starting out in the game to professional players retiring from it.

As part of fundraising activities the England squad and a number of high profile celebrities picked up their blue pens and sketched doodles and the well renowned Cricket United drawings sold for over £7,700. A major contributor was James Anderson’s caricature of Nasser Hussain which fetched over £1,000 alone as the drawings once again proved a resounding success.

One lucky bidder also paid over £1,000 and that was to secure the drawings of Darren Gough by Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow by Mark Wood.

The celebrity doodles also made a huge difference to the Cricket United coffers with Stephen Fry’s sketch of Moeen Ali selling for £760 while England rugby union captain Dylan Hartley’s effort of his friend and England cricket captain Cook made almost £500. Lord’s Taverners president Sir Michael Parkinson also got in on the act this time around. He (along with help from his grandchildren) drew Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes for the auction which between them raised almost £500.

All three charity beneficiaries played a major part in the day. They were interviewed by Test Match Special’s (TMS) Charles Dagnall talking about how they’ve benefited from the help of the respective charities before Dominic Nowland-Wall (who was part of the Ralph Thoresby team that won this year’s table cricket finals) was invited by Michael Vaughan to visit the commentary boxes. Not only did he meet the TMS team, he was also lucky enough to join the Sky Sports team, meet Shane Warne and use Nasser Hussain’s head set during live commentary. This ensured it was a day Dominic won’t forget in a hurry!

Next up for Cricket United is the inaugural charity challenge Twenty20 game at the Kia Oval on 22 September. This will see a Cricket United XI, managed by Michael Vaughan, take on Mark Butcher’s Surrey All Stars. Names confirmed so far include T20 superstars Jason Roy and Kevin Pietersen with many more big names to be confirmed that will help raise even more funds for the Cricket United charitable appeal.

To find out more about Cricket United please visit www.cricketunited.co.uk or follow @cricketunited on social media.

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