England cricketer Tom Westley fears for future of village game after boyhood club Weston Colville withdraws from league
England cricketer Tom Westley has said the withdrawal of his boyhood club Weston Colville from a league is ‘a very sad day’ for village cricket.
The batsman – who has played first-class cricket for Essex since 2006, before making his debut for the national test side last summer – was reacting to the South Cambridgeshire club announcing their withdrawal from the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association (CCA) league with immediate effect.
The club’s decline has been steady in recent years, only able to field one adult team in 2018 due to increasing difficulties in attracting players to the squad and ultimately leading to the senior section folding.
Cricket has been played in the village for well over 100 years, with the first game reportedly played in 1867.
A silver lining is that the youth set-up, run by long-time player and committee member Steve Potter and Trevor Westley, will continue.
But Westley fears for the future of cricket in the place that sparked his love of the game.
“It’s very important to me that cricket carries on being played in the village,” he said.
“There’s so much history in the club and it’s central to what goes on in the village.
“It’s quintessentially English; village cricket played on village greens and it’s such a shame it seems to be dying out. There’s a real sense of loss and it worries me. It was the place I discovered the game after all.
“It is a bit of a concern about where the young players will find the game with less visibility – I remember growing up and seeing it played everywhere, it’s so much a part of my memories as a child.
“It’s vital young players have a chance to play senior cricket as they develop and those village sides are also vital for the bigger teams, as feeder teams and it just adds depth to the number of people playing.”
Westley, who still has strong ties to the area with his family still living locally, revealed his support behind getting a senior Weston Colville team back off the ground.
“My dad and I have joked about doing something to get it up and running again,” he said.
“But it’s very tough for me to try to get involved right now, I want to encourage others to step forward until I can get involved. I would love to one day be a part of the club once more; it’s where it all started for me.
“It would be amazing to come back once my first-class cricket career is over and
look to get Weston Colville up to the East Anglian Premier League – that’s the dream.”
Steve Potter, meanwhile, said he was also hopeful of the club getting a senior side back up and running soon, although admitted that ‘once a team folds, it is really difficult to get it started again’.
Potter said the club had been in a ‘downward spiral’ for years, culminating in the inability to field a senior side in a league.
He said: “We are not alone in this situation.
“Village cricket is under pressure as many people are not prepared to commit to playing every week.
“Mergers, such as that with Sawston & Babraham, have worked and they are now gaining strength. At the other end of the scale our neighbours Burrough Green dropped out of the league a couple of years ago and no longer have an adult team.
“Maybe the way forward is to have regional teams where three or four clubs that might otherwise fade away can get enough players to regenerate interest and provide a pathway for all the genuinely interested youngsters that play in the youth league.”
“For Weston Colville, we press on with our juniors and hope that maybe, just maybe, in the future there will be an adult team at the club for them to move to. I do not believe that will happen anytime soon as, regrettably, once a team folds it is really difficult to get it started again.
“We live in hope.”