The winners of the inaugural MCC Community Cricket Heroes campaign were welcomed to Lord’s as guests of MCC President Stephen Fry during the England v Ireland LV= Insurance Men’s Test.
The winners were at the Home of Cricket to watch the play in the prestigious President’s Suite with Fry in recognition for their outstanding contribution to the grassroots game.
The campaign, run in conjunction with The Cricketer magazine, was launched in March to find 11 unsung grassroots cricket heroes from across the country.
The 11 winners were chosen from hundreds of nominations received by MCC by a special panel consisting of Stephen Fry, former England cricketers Claire Taylor and Mike Gatting, Director of the MCC Foundation Sarah Fane, Director of Cricket and Operations at MCC Jamie Cox, and Huw Turbervill, Editor of The Cricketer.
Pictured above: Guy Lavender, Mike Fox, John Jarvis, Fry, Bobby Behzadi, Huw Turbevill, Jamie Cox
MCC President Stephen Fry commented: “It was fantastic to meet and welcome our MCC Community Cricket Heroes to Lord’s for the Test and in some small way thank them for their amazing contributions to the grassroots game.
"It’s right that we recognise and celebrate the vital role that they and countless other individuals like them play in making our game what it is. They exemplify all that is good about the sport, the spirit of cricket, and the values of MCC.”
"It was amazing and a bit surreal to be honest"
Lachlan Smith, the founder of Birmingham Unicorns, one of world’s only LGBTQ+ grassroots cricket clubs, was chosen as an MCC Community Cricket Hero for his work in setting up and developing the club and for providing an inclusive space for the LGBTQ+ community and people from all backgrounds to play the game.
Speaking about his day at Lord’s, he commented: “It was amazing and a bit surreal to be honest. It isn’t something you expect, so to have the opportunity to come and spend the day at Lord’s for the hard work you do is totally and utterly brilliant.”
Taj Butt, a groundsman from Great Horton Church Cricket Club, an inner-city club in Bradford, was selected as an MCC Community Cricket Hero for his work in developing girl’s cricket and using cricket to improve education for young people in his local community.
He added: “It was an honour to be at the ‘Home of Cricket’ and meet Stephen Fry. Hopefully I represent not just myself and my family but also lots of other people like me, who give their lifetime to the game of cricket by volunteering, doing the grounds, umpiring and everything else it takes for a game of cricket to take place.”
Sheena Recaldin, who helped save her local village cricket club, Chevening Amblers Cricket Club in Kent, following Covid, said: “It was a great honour to be at Lord’s and extraordinary to watch from the President’s Suite. I have always enjoyed cricket having been involved for a long time with my two sons, one of which captains our Sunday team. We are one of the oldest cricket clubs in the world at Chevening - our first match was recorded in the 1640s. Cricket is hugely important as it is a really nice way to bring communities together.”
Mike Fox, from Fochabers Cricket Club in Scotland, who has been the groundsman, club captain, scorer and umpire at the club whilst also helping to support grassroots cricket in his role with the North Scotland Cricket Association, said: “It was very humbling to be recognised as an MCC Community Cricket Hero. I’ve never thought of myself in that context – I’ve just enjoyed participating and being involved with Fochabers Cricket Club and the North of Scotland Cricket Association. It was a fantastic experience at Lord’s, and beyond my dreams.”
Bobby Behdazi, a primary school teacher from Eailing who was nominated and selected as an MCC Community Cricket Hero for his work in helping to give more girls from state schools the chance to play cricket, said: “The fact that people went out of their way to nominate me for the work I do is humbling. To get some recognition, have a day out at Lord’s and speak with these lovely like-minded community heroes is incredibly flattering.
“Having the opportunity to come to this part of Lord’s and watch a game has been so rewarding, and I’m really thankful and appreciative.”
Pictured above: James Worstead, Taj Butt, Fry, Lachlan Smith, Sheena Recaldin
James Worstead who set up Valenciennes Cricket Club in Northern France for refugees to play cricket and have much needed social integration said: “This is my first time at Lord’s. It’s not somewhere I ever thought I’d get to visit so to come here in these circumstances makes it all the more surreal. My family and friends have all been so excited as they know how much it means to me.”
Huw Turbervill, Editor of The Cricketer Magazine, commented: “What a privilege it was to meet the winners and hear their stories. From Mike Fox boosting the game in the Scottish Highlands with Fochabers, to Bobby Behzadi doing stunning work with girls in Acton, it was uplifting, and they thoroughly earned their days in the sun at glorious Lord’s.”
Abbie Johnson alongside MCC President Stephen Fry
In addition to the 11 winners, Simon Prodger was also selected as an honorary MCC Community Cricket Hero after he was nominated posthumously. Simon was selected by the panel for his work as Chair of Watford Town Cricket Club and made an immeasurable contribution to the recreational game through his work with the National Cricket Conference and Club Cricket Conference.
Rory Field with MCC President Stephen Fry
Mike Banham with MCC President Stephen Fry