By Ben Fleming
The last year, at its chaotic and unpredictable worst, has had implications far and wide throughout Durham, with Cricket no exception. BUCS has been cancelled for this academic year, the men’s 1s Hockey seem unlikely to be able to continue their campaign in the Premier Division and college sport, the crown jewel of the Durham sporting scene, is yet to get going.
Amongst all of this, Durham University Cricket Club (DUCC) perhaps represent one of Durham’s most affected sporting
institutions. Their season, which takes place almost exclusively in Easter term, was cancelled last year with the arrival of the first national lockdown. And, whilst this year’s season seems set to continue, the loss of long-term funding from the MCC and various coronavirus-related restrictions have made it a difficult year so far for the club.
Speaking to Palatinate, Social Secretary Kam Hornby has admitted that it has been a difficult time for the club, but stressed they have taken this year to implement some much needed structural and cultural changes to the club and to promote a “one club mentality”. He admits in the past the club has been a “bit guilty of having the MCCU and ‘the rest’” creating a bit of a divide between the top teams in the club and those lower down.
By restructuring the club and rebranding the top team’s 1s and 2s rather than the MCCU squad and the MCCU Devs, Kam and Seb Carty, the social media sec, hope to see “emphasis being placed on performance and training ethic” and a sense of unity throughout the club, something which will hopefully lead to greater results on the pitch come summer.
Over the last few months, with few full in-person training sessions and events, DUCC has been keen to look at the bigger picture and responsibilities of Durham sport. Kam recognises the importance of being more than simply a facilitator for sport but also a community that looks after one another.
“We have also placed a bigger emphasis on mental health [this year]. We held a mental health seminar with Lewis Baxter, a mental health campaigner and Durham student. Furthermore, as there is very little to do in terms of in-person training, we’ve tried to focus on making sure the freshers feel as if they’re part of something big, and we’ve made it clear that they can pop up to us as senior members of the squads for a chat regardless of what it’s about.
Combined with making sure socials aren’t toxic and solely drinking-based and holding more events with the Women’s team this year, there is a sense that in this time of great social isolation, the club has become a community and far more than just eleven students taking to the field to bowl or bat.
As the club tentatively puts plans in place for a return to action with a full pre-season in the Easter break, they will have to keep an eye on the future and, in particular, funding for next season. As part of ECB restructuring, all six MMCUs have ceased to receive funding, with the decision being made prior to Covid-19. Lew Bedford, the Club President, explained the precarious situation this left the club in.
“Fortunately, the ECB has provided a guaranteed funding round of one year and depending on the success of the programme and the alignment of this programme to the ECB’s higher-level strategy, we may continue to receive funding from them. If this is not the case, the University will need to think of ways to increase fundraising from an internal perspective and build a level of self-sufficiency so that we can continue to deliver a brilliant experience to all.”
Regardless of the outcome, Lew, Kam, Seb and the rest of DUCC are simply keen to return to some sort of cricketing normality come Easter. Plans for full trials and friendlies with Leeds University are currently being discussed and there is a sense of optimism that the season can occur in its entirety this summer.
For Lew, the idea of being back “on the road, with the characters and lovely blokes in the dressing rooms” is what it’s all about and hopefully, those times will return soon. For now, at least, one must wait but not ignore the great efforts of the club to create more of a community in this most difficult of times.
Image: Richard Ellis via Flickr