A new cricket club forming in Yorkshire is unusual, if not completely unheard of. There are already some 800 or so across the region – so why go to the effort of setting up your own?
Starbeck Cricket Club, who finished their first season in Division Eight of the Nidderdale Cricket League as champions, have done just that.
Sunil Thomas explained to me where the inspiration was rooted and their plans for the future…
The idea came after the realisation that there was a group of 20 or so cricketers who were friends and spread out, playing for different clubs across divisions and other leagues too.
Apparently, the opportunity to bring everyone together, start to play as a new club, with a vision for juniors and women’s cricket, was enticing.
Of course, there’s thinking it’s a fun idea and doing all of the many things that come with creating a legitimate cricket club from nothing. I’ve interviewed the likes of Brook-Walton and Allama Iqbal Cricket Club on their journey and it takes time, drive and a fearless approach to cricket admin.
So, how did Starbeck Cricket Club go about it?
Key components of getting set up were safeguarding and club insurance: “As a new club, we got all the support from the Yorkshire Cricket Board (YCB) from the beginning.”
He added: “It was especially Richard Wilkinson and Tom Bates who helped us to complete all the safeguarding-related requirements. That allowed us to complete the ECB’s Safe Hands Management System successfully and got the club’s insurance through that.”
In addition, every cricket club needs sponsors and Starbeck secured three main backers for the 2023 campaign: Tharavadu Restaurant (a Michelin Recommended restaurant serving Keralan cuisine in central Leeds), Hazel Ann (uniforms for medical professionals) and Kollam Brothers Italy (who provided the team shirts).
Along with gratitude to sponsors, Sunil acknowledged the Nidderdale Cricket League committee with their guidance and the HMA (Harrogate Malayali Association) for the club launch meeting (above).
Of course, any endeavour like this needs to be driven by those volunteers at the club itself from the first-team captain Kunnappillil Boban Varghese to their own committee.
Gradually, with the season approaching, the elements all slotted into place including use of Bishop Thornton’s ground for Starbeck’s home games.
Their identity itself has a pleasing simplicity to it. Naming a cricket club feels like it might be such a personal and emotional choice but actually it normally comes down to location.
Without the ties to history where a club might have been a works or church team with its origins from hundreds of years ago, Starbeck Cricket Club was born because, well, most live near Starbeck, on the North-Eastern fringe of Harrogate.
Their men’s team began, as we all did, watching it rain and rain. The opening two games were rained off before an eight-wicket win, their first for the club, came against St Chad’s Broomfield in a friendly at the end of April.
What followed was a five-game winning streak to launch their bid for the Division Eight title, starting with their inaugural league victory against Rainton by 173 runs.
A stop-start season saw them unable to play five games over eight weeks in July and August as opposition conceded or that dreadful July ruined grounds everywhere.
However, three wins in September meant Starbeck were crowned as champions in their first season after dismissing Studley Royal (48 all out), Rainton (94 all out) and Knaresborough Forest (97 all out) cheaply before a comfortable hat-trick of wins.
* Photo: Caught Light Photography
To cap it off, they won the Peter Bentley Cup and their evening XI enjoyed their first season in Division 5 of the Harrogate & District Amateur Evening League.
It is a journey, on and off the pitch, that has seen Starbeck also win the Yorkshire Cricket Board’s Brian and Shirley Hobson Award (Connecting Communities) which they’ll collect at the YCB’s Cricket Collective Awards evening in November at Headingley.
From the germination of an idea to the satisfaction of a trophy-laden season, bringing their community together around cricket and making new friends along the way.
Sunil told me that thoughts are already turning to what’s next: “We are thinking of starting early practice sections and pre-season preparations, and participating in indoor tournaments.”
He added: “We are hoping that we can place our second XI in the league. In the future, we are planning to form junior and women’s teams as well.”
Keep an ear out for Starbeck, they’re only just getting started…
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