My Cricket Memories 2
In the second part of our My Cricket Memories series, Non-Executive Director Steve Kind recalls the many happy memories of following Leicestershire CCC over the years, including the Finals Days in T20.
As a Leicester lad born and bred, I am passionate about all Leicester based sporting teams. My first recollections of Grace Road date back to 1975 when at the age of just 12, I signed up as a Junior Member. I chose a good year to start my following of the Club, with the Club lifting the County Championship at the end of the season for the first time in its history under the wily leadership of Ray Illingworth.
During this era, my cricketing hero was the swashbuckling Brian ‘Davo’ Davison who seemed to be permanently puffing on a cigarette – he probably had a ciggy or two whilst occupying the crease but what a player and great bloke he was – a true Foxes legend. The long school holidays were happily spent down at Grace Road where, with my brother and a group of mates, we would voluntarily maintain the old manual scoreboard for second team fixtures! I became a serial autograph hunter with one of the cricketing highlights of each summer being the traditional touring fixture and trips down to the old Post House hotel where the touring teams used to be based in order to secure prized signatures straight after breakfast.
In the mid to late 1970s, a certain blonde haired young gifted left-handed batsman arrived on the scene. We were so fortunate to have the batting talent of David Gower on our doorstep. Those were the days of the Sunday afternoon 40-over John Player League where we had a pretty good one-day side, winning the tournament in 1977. Each home game meant a long queue around the Milligan Road an hour or so before the game to ensure securing a seat in the knowledge that Gower would be opening the batting for the Foxes in front of a packed house.
Another memory of that era was the brilliant writing of the Leicester Mercury’s cricket correspondent, Martin Johnson, who not surprisingly, went on to be an esteemed correspondent within the national media for many years.
A rare cup final visit to Lords for the 1985 B&H Cup Final is fondly recalled watching Gower and Peter Willey guide us to a comfortable win over Essex and the 1992 Gillette Cup (we never did win it) was memorable both for a rare appearance in a cup final at Lord’s and secondly as my wife was nearly nine months pregnant with our second child. These were the days pre-mobile phones and fortunately after some persuasion I managed to get to Lord’s to see us defeated but at least with great timing, our son was born a few days later.
By the 1990s, I was working in professional football and finding time to escape down to Grace Road had become increasingly difficult but my support for the Club never wavered through both thick and thin. On a September afternoon during 1996, when we were within touching distance of securing the Championship for only a second time under the astute leadership of James Whittaker and our Club President Jack Birkenshaw, I can recall cancelling all planned meetings and racing down to Grace Road to witness the clinching of the championship amid euphoric scenes.
Cricket changed hugely with the introduction of T20 around 2004 and the Foxes appeared way ahead of most other Counties in the early years of inception, with all home games played in front of a packed house. The two Darrens, Maddy and Stevens, were both innovative and brutal, and brilliantly supported by Australian Brad Hodge combined with an array of slow bowling talent. T20 Finals days, invariably staged at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston back then, were wonderful (and mainly successful) days out but I suppose the one that really does stick out is that extraordinary T20 Finals day at Edgbaston in 2011 when after both semi-finals were tied, we sneaked through to the final courtesy of a super over and defeated strong favourites Somerset in the final on a day where the weather intervened through-out. Nico’s diving one-handed catch to dismiss West Indian star Kieran Pollard was just one of many highlights that day. I arrived home at around 1am the following morning!
After working in professional football for many years at both Leicester City and Aston Villa, I was invited by former Chief Executive Wasim Khan and former Chair Paul Haywood to act as independent non-executive Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee of the Club around four years ago. My knowledge of the running of the Club soon increased and in March 2018 I was elected by the membership to the full Board as a non-executive director. I am privileged to have served on the Board’s of two of our main professional sports in the city of Leicester.
My personal cricketing abilities fall somewhat short of many of my fellow Board colleagues as it has, and still is, been mainly confined to village cricket but my cricketing CV does say that I have opened the batting (scoring a respectable 22) a few years ago for the MCC. Not quite the MCC you may be thinking – the Menorca Cricket Club! We have been fortunate to holiday on this beautiful island almost every year over the last 25 years and the MCC host an English tourist team every weekend from May to October at a picturesque ground just off the south-east coast of the island. Each year, Menorca play for the Balearic Cup against neighbouring islands Ibiza and Majorca – I’m unsure as to whether taking part in this classes as international representation!
I now chair the Finance & Business Committee with the greatest challenge having been to secure the financial future of the Club over last Winter after many years of battling against financial struggle and modest on-field achievements. Whilst we appeared to achieve this a few months ago in putting the Club on a sound financial platform from which to move forward both on and off the field of play, none of us could really have planned for the devasting impact of COVID-19.
But despite all the challenges that lie ahead, we now have a strong and unified board and senior management team, all passionate Leicester folk, who want nothing more than to bring collective success back to a Club that means so much to so many.
* Thanks to Neville Chadwick Photography for the accompanying image.
Click below to read the other installments of the Cricket Memories series: