Roving reporter: The mystery of £250000 that changed fortunes of little Hoveringham CC
The Hoveringham Cricket Club is in located a small village near Lowdham. (Image: Aditya Bhattacharya)

NOTTINGHAM: It was a relatively quiet day at the Trent Bridge cricket ground. Rain had lashed the city the night before because of which the ground remained slightly wet and the surface covered. Two days remained before West Indies took on Australia but there were no signs of cricket. Australia were to arrive in Nottingham a day later, while the West Indies were scheduled to visit a few local schools in the city.

“I’m afraid there isn’t much to do here today, sir. You’d want to come back tomorrow, maybe.”

I turned around to see a burly individual with his hands on his waist, staring at me, as if it’s his property I’ve trespassed. “I’m a journalist from India. Are you sure nothing is scheduled for today?” I ask. “Nope, nothing you can do today except roam around the stadium.”

Stephen Campbell is a cricket development officer at Trent Bridge, or the Nottinghamshire Cricket Club as it’s better known. His main responsibilities include working as a batting coach for the young and overlooks as many as 84 primary schools across Nottingham. He is a former club cricketer who’s played at the semi-professional level across Australia and England during the late 2000s. A medium-pace bowler during his playing days, Stephen had to give up cricket after unfortunately getting in a collision with a car. After 18 months of recovering, he switched to behind-the-scene operations at the NCC.

Outside of his duties at the NCC, Stephen performs another role. He is the groundsman of the Hoveringham Cricket Club, located in the outskirts of Nottingham, roughly 11 miles from Trent Bridge. The rough count of people at Trent Bridge, including myself came up to 20, so Stephen suggested he gave me a ride till Hoveringham and maybe do a little feature on the cricket club.

I reluctantly agreed, since there were no important chores left to do, but once Stephen offered a cold one for the course of the ride, the decision to ride along became pretty much a foregone conclusion.

“Hop on,” he says. During the ride, we discuss about his role at the Trent Bridge stadium. But Stephen somehow always manages to divert it towards Hoveringham CC. It’s where he’s spent his entire life at. His father is the president of the club and he has served there as a cricketer, groundsman, umpire, publicity manage and more.

The club was founded in 1803 but began struggling to meet ends along the way. But a throw of dice, as they say, changed the fate of the club, after it was known that a former member of Hoveringham, in his will, left behind his entire life’s savings in the name of the club, the amount being a gobsmacking £250,000.

Hoveringham CC mostly remains empty on weekdays. (Image: Aditya Bhattacharya)

“The gentleman we’re talking about is Derek Wright,” Stephen says. “He was our president. He was also a life-long member of the club. He was a former groundsman, former captain, player for over 50 years and he actually left his whole life-long earnings to the cricket club. He had very few relatives left over. Unfortunately he died in October of 2017. With all the money pumped in, we’re now starting to come through. We have invested in a number of areas to ensure the sustainment of the cricket club.”

As we reach the venue, almost in the middle of a very country-side like set-up, there is not a soul to be spotted. Stephen informs the matches usually take place on weekends and that a one-off evening game is scheduled during the week. The size of the ground is a smaller than that of an average school playground in India. Within that area, there are a couple of white side screens, a heavy pitch cover is laying on top of the surface and a cottage-type pavilion rests on the side. It is right there that I sense the club’s reach is limited.

It is important to realise that not one Hoveringham official is paid. In fact, the individuals involved are volunteers, their commitment towards the club is what keeps Hoveringham on its feet. Stephen points out how last year during the game, they struggled to even get in players to make an 11, and that he himself had to step in to complete the team.

Exactly why Wright left his entire life’s savings on Hoveringham CC, Stephen says, will remain a mystery.

“It was a case that any money that came in used in the running of the club,” he says. “Our outreach is very small, £2000 and then some. We was found out very late about Derek’s big heart. It was probably eight months after Derek had died. As a cricket club we weren’t surprised that he invested money into a cricket club but we weren’t expecting the whole amount that came through.

“His noble contribution has changed the entire dimension about our cricket club. Everything we did, the players, the groundsmen, they were never paid. We had to make sure we had some good leadership, we had trustees, who took care of everything.”

Derek Wright (Center) club captain for many years, he was opening batsman, secretary for 39 years. (Image: Hoveringham Cricket Club)

The club usually spends around £5000 a season on its various outgoings, but since the inheritance, the club has chalked out a proper plan of development. Stephen mentions the club feels it is its duty to make sure that Wright’s gesture is channelled rightly towards the betterment of the club he devoted his entire life to.

“As I said, our current playing staff are volunteers; our committee members. Our entire structure is based as volunteers. What we wish to do is just sustain the number of people performing those roles. If we went back three years ago, we were really struggling to get volunteers. Now, we have grasped a bit of interest because of the money that has been invested and hopefully we can reward out volunteers better. I think it’s very important you reward them” Stephen adds.

“But more than anything, we now want to start an academy for young and promising cricketers and build our own team. We are involved with the ECB in terms of overseeing a programme that offers cricket training to players starting from the age of five and going till 12. So once, we get a core team, I think that is when we’ll really start to look forward, Until then, it’s one thing at a time.

It’s almost 3 when Stephen and I decide to head back. I tell him how I myself am part of an amateur team back in India called LIT and that as a matter of fact, four of its members are in England to cover the World Cup. To that, his eyes widen.

“Great, maybe we can get the two clubs together and have a match sometime.”