The annual ‘Cricketer Village Cup’ gets underway in May for its 49th year, and the draw has whet the appetite for a number of Lancashire sides – especially Shireshead and Forton Cricket Club.
The nationwide competition gives non-professional players a shot at playing on the biggest stage, with the home of cricket, Lords, hosting the final each year.
And even though Shireshead and Forton have never graced the hallowed turf, Chairman Mike Park says the start of the cup is a date that everyone at the club looks forward to each year.
“It’s well over 20 years now that we’ve been entering, and if you progress you can play anywhere in the country, so there is a possibility of venturing around the country and we’ve had some really good days out.
“In the past we have hired out coaches to take supporters up and down the country, whilst visiting teams have brought good followings to us which is really good for the club.”
Nevertheless, the draw sees teams split up regionally in the opening stages, with Shireshead having a bye in the first round before playing either Grimsargh or Edgworth in the Cumbria and North Lancashire section of the draw.
Mike didn’t want to look to far ahead into the draw, but they face the prospect of facing former winners Cleator in the third round.
“In 2013 Cleator won the tournament, and that year we nearly beat them a couple of rounds previous which was a good achievement.”
At the moment the weather in the area is looking bleak, however, come April when the season restarts many teams will be hoping for brighter pastures ahead of a busy schedule.
And in a season where the number of entrants is at its highest in over a decade – with 308 clubs in the draw – the trend hasn’t been matched in the Lancashire area which has seen a decline in interest.
“When I played, we entered three cups so we could end up playing every Saturday and Sunday and I don’t think younger players nowadays want to commit that sort of time,” Mike said.
“They’ve changed some of the cup games to a 20 over format now to reduce the time element, with changes to society influencing this and they (players) want to balance social commitments.”
With the club having a number of junior teams, the aim is to keep those coming through interested – especially with a clear drop off from 17 and 18 year olds due to university and work commitments.
Nonetheless, on the back of a memorable cricketing summer with England winning the World Cup, the ECB is looking to harness a renewed interest from the general public in its introduction of ‘The Hundred’
With the new hundred ball format set to get under way in July, Mike is open to the idea if it can attract more participants and get larger crowds.
“It’s about keeping it marketable for younger players and it looks like an exciting move, we said the same when 20 over and day-night formats were introduced.
“I’m probably caught between two stalls – I’m a bit of a purist – but I can see how much of an attractive proposition this could be and if it helps increase participation and pull in crowds then it can only be a good thing.”
The summer can’t come quick enough if last summer’s action is anything to go by, but the first weekend of May is set to be the main event in the amateur calendar when the Village Cup gets underway.
As for Shireshead and Forton, a bye sees them get underway on May 17th in round two.