Covid-19 vaccine roll-out contribution is cricket's latest cheerful tale

NICK HOWSON: Grounds around the country are assisting with the effort to inoculate the nation. Even in the English winter the heartening tales have continued


Kent's Spitfire Ground to open as Covid-19 vaccination hub

Gloucestershire's Bristol County Ground becomes Covid-19 vaccine site

On June 1, 2020, The Cricketer launched the Lockdown Heroes awards, shining a light on the individuals and groups who had gone an extra mile during the toughest period in the United Kingdom's post-war history.

Across five categories we were greeted with more than 400 nominations and upon asking the public to choose their favourite more than 10,000 votes were received. If there was ever an example of cricket's capacity to inspire this was it.

Wimbledon CC's Jon Speller, Olly Hannon-Dalby from Warwickshire, fundraiser Dan Manders, Lucy Axcell and Katie Sturgess, and Carl Holding were declared the winners but in truth, every nominee could rightly be called a champion for bringing joy to their community.

What remained of the season might have ended, trunks stowed away for months, the nights may have closed in and colder temperatures have taken hold, yet that spirit remains as vibrant as ever. Once again, cricket has stepped up to the plate to contribute to the national effort even in hibernation.

Clubs, meant to be dormant due to national restrictions reducing any hope of festive events and fundraisers, have come alive. Cold pavilions and conference rooms have been transformed into pop-up vaccination centres, serving first the most vulnerable and frail before moving on to the rest of their communities.

Vaccine CC: How cricket clubs are helping give their community a shot in the arm

Lord's, Gloucestershire's Bristol County Ground and Kent's Canterbury are the three first-class grounds being used to stage the injections. Many who travel through their facilities over the coming weeks and months may have never been there before, but thanks to their visit there is a good chance they will be back.

But cricket's offering does not end there. Smaller sides have also been enlisted to help with the roll-out. They might not be able to get through the same vast numbers as some of the larger centres, but their service is no less organised or important.

Last week, I wrote about three clubs who have been signed up to serve their community. Ashington CC, Alnwick CC and Penwortham CC are among those selected to help, having been declared fit for the job by local health authorities.

Glossop, Whalley Range and Coventry and North Warwickshire are among the others on board.


Lord's is among those to have opened its doors to the public

Clubs have offered up much more than just their facilities. Venues have been renovated and adapted and volunteers are on the fringes to help the NHS and GPs operate as efficiently as possible.

There is some outstanding cricket going on across the world in Sri Lanka, Australia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand. But these are cricket's real heroes right now.

Take Alnwick CC, based in Northumberland, for example. They will only get through a few hundred people a day and due to supply issues sometimes even less. For the same reason, on other days they will not even be open.

Facilities have had to be overhauled, minor adjustments made, and dozens of unpaid hours donated, all in return for a minor fee but tonnes of satisfaction. It would be nice, should the accelerated vaccination prove successful, if the ECB provided some support should their own matches go ahead with crowds this summer. Dedication on the ground will make all that possible, after all.

Lockdown Heroes - The Winners: Find out who has been voted to No.1 in each of our five categories

Alnwick may not get into five figures in terms of vaccinations but their assistance to the cause is priceless. That should be recognised beyond a warm hand-out by an already asset-stripped health service.

It would be easy to judge cricket clubs giving over their facilities as merely doing their duty. But there is no obligation. This process could go on for months and bleed into the new season, yet few have considered the impact on their own arrangements. Much like a run-chase on a pitch doing a bit, everyone is knuckling down, refusing to take a backward step and hoping things will get better. They will. They must.

Widespread generosity of spirit has been among the major positives to emerge from this trying period. Nothing can ease the pain suffered by hundreds of millions across the world, but the charity shown by many has been heartening

It is no surprise to see cricket take a prominent role in such acts of munificence. Before long, it will be back as a sporting entity but whether it be mid-summer or winter, its’ ability to uplift the community does not relent.



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