Updated: Feb 27
This time last year... How simple life seemed just one year ago, and now we are in global lockdown! Apart from the most insightful fortune tellers, the most cynical of cynics and apparently Dominic Cummings, nobody could have foretold that a year on from the launch of the Cricket World Cup 2019 we would be yet to start the 2020 season - but unfortunately, that is where we are.
On to more cheerful things, it does allow me to look back on last year and what a fabulous year for cricket it was - and I am delighted to say that I was privileged enough to be a part of it.
It was my first real foray into organised voluntary work, and I volunteered for two things; the CWC19 opening party and as a Cricketeer at the Oval and the Fan Zone in Trafalgar Square.
The Opening Party
The CWC19 opening party was to be a televised funshow which required two consecutive weekends of rehearsals with mini cricket bats and real live professional dancers, followed by an afternoon and an evening on the Mall with Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness who were hosting the funshow. The funshow itself included live performances by Rudimental and Loryn, a procession with the actual world cup which was led by former Aussie cricket captain Michael Clarke and all of the captains of the competing nations.
I found the opening party to be, quite frankly, slightly disappointing (it pains me to say it), although the drizzly weather didn't do much to help the situation. Apart from all the major cricketing stars and captains, as well as the incredible Malala Yousafzai representing Pakistan (so petite! I expected her to be taller), the best celebrity we could rustle up to represent England was Joey Essex. When you remember that for London 2012 they recruited the Queen, Daniel Craig and Sir Paul McCartney, one reality TV star doesn't really stand up to comparison - I mean no offense to Joey Essex, who seems like a really nice guy.
This aside, I'm really pleased I did it because I met some really great people and was given an India cricket shirt at the end of it which I love to wear when doing my sport and leisure activities.
On to the Main Show
Then, it was on to the actual Cricket World Cup, and into the Spectator Services team. From recruitment to the actual first match, the process took a little under 18 months. I remember at the beginning of 2018, getting an email from either the ICC or the ECB saying that they were recruiting volunteers for the World Cup and I thought that it sounded like a really fun opportunity to see some of the inner-workings of what goes into a large sporting event - not knowing at the time that it would be the beginning of a new relationship with voluntary work.
The process was:
Apply online to be a volunteer (I selected the Kia Oval as my home venue)
An interview/uniform fitting*
A training session at the Oval
Uniform pick-up a couple of weeks before the tournament
The Cricket World Cup!
*While I understand the practical implications of needing to do a uniform fitting at the interview session, I do feel that it is rather cruel in a way because if you are unsuccessful, there is an element of 'and here's what you could have won' about it.
The first game was England versus South Africa on Thursday 30th May 2019 at the Oval. We were yet to discover that South Africa's campaign was to be a dismal one, even though they had a pretty decent side. There was such a huge buzz around the ground, with SA winning the toss and deciding to bowl. England went into the tournament as favourites, so there was a huge amount of pressure on them to do well - and we all know what the English press and fans can be like when it comes to piling on the pressure, but the team bore it admirably and went on to win by 104 runs, having posted a reasonably good score and fielding really well.
How the volunteering shift went:
We started at 7.30am in a tent across the road from the Oval (this is also where we were to take breaks)
The doors opened at 8.30am for spectators to arrive, and we were posted at different parts of the ground (with some Cricketeers at Vauxhall and Oval tube stations) to help ferry the spectators in and welcome them to the ground. I was the one with the megaphone at Hobbs Gate telling people to: 'stay off the road', 'South Africa have won the toss and have opted to bowl' and 'don't forget to put some sun screen on'
The toss was at 10am, and the match began at 10.30am, but there were still stragglers and latecomers - the bends around the Oval are pretty tight, and being a Thursday it was also rush hour which made it difficult to stop the crowds from piling out onto the roads
From around 11am we were able to wander around the ground, helping people when they asked for it (usually they were trying to find the toilets or ice cream stalls) and some of the cricketeers had foam cricket balls and selfie boards as photo props. We were also able to catch glimpses of the match from spaces between the stands (I happened to be at Hobbs gate when Ben Stokes took THAT catch)
The next big muster came at lunchtime when we had to help facilitate the lunch and bar queues
For the second session when England went into bat, and it was more or less the same as the morning session where we were wandering around the ground (albeit without the epic fielding effort). England eased past South Africa, and all in all it was a successful match
At the end of the day we were posted at the gates and we waved goodbye to the fans who had enjoyed a fabulous day of cricket (I still had my megaphone and was telling people to 'Go Well')
It was a really good day, even though it was a long one where I was mostly on my feet. It set-up the tournament for what was to be an incredible run for England - not without its ups and downs though. I ended up going to South Africa versus Bangladesh, which was a fantastic match where Bangladesh surprised everyone and absolutely pummelled SA (this was the beginning of the end for SA really).
Would I do it again? Absolutely! I have since been accepted to be the Oval Ambassador team, where I will be more or less doing the exact same role, only for domestic matches and some international. Unfortunately, due to Covid, this has been put on hold for the time being, but I have no doubt that I will be reporting on my experiences there at some point in the (hopefully near) future.