The Lowerhouse Cricket Club’s impressive hall of fame at The Spin is a notable addition to the club’s already rich history and charm.
It is currently the second snowfall of the winter season, and the Lowerhouse Cricket Club and surrounding Lancashire hills are covered in a layer of white snow. A cold wind is blowing across the grounds, where Stan Heaton, who takes on multiple roles including cricket chairman, child welfare officer, bar supervisor, and groundsman, has opened up the clubhouse as he does almost every day of the year. He has recently received a reservation from a woman interested in hosting a pilates class, but is realizing that the weather conditions will prevent him from using his chainsaw for maintenance work.
In 1862, Lowerhouse CC was established and was one of the original teams in the Lancashire league. Located just 2.5 miles west of Burnley center, Lowerhouse was once a mill village and is now in an impoverished area. Anthony Higginbotham, who represents the “red wall” Tory group that joined in 2019, is the current MP for the area and the first Conservative to hold the position in 109 years.
It is peculiar to consider that not long ago, teams like Lowerhouse in the Lancashire league were comparable to the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings – top destinations for overseas professionals seeking valuable experience and a generous salary. The memories of renowned players who graced the league are like treasured gems, including Michael Holding, Sir Learie Constantine, and Steve Waugh.
Lowerhouse has had an impressive 25 professional players who have also played in Test cricket. Heaton, who is essentially in charge of the club, has both played and watched many of these players. It’s difficult to determine the best player, as there is a distinction between being the best and being effective. However, the most effective player we have had is Francois Haasbroek (2011-13). He came to us as a professional player from South Africa, but now plays as an amateur after marrying a woman from Burnley. With him on our team, we were able to win the league, the cup, and achieve a double victory.
Manoj Prabhakar (1991) was considered to be the best in his class and was ranked as one of the top five all-rounders in the world. Kirti Azad (1983-85), a professional cricketer from India, achieved the ultimate feat of winning the World Cup for his country on a Saturday and still showed up to play for his team against Burnley the next day. He even managed to score a century during the game. It is unlikely that anyone would do something like this in today’s times, but Azad’s pride and dedication were unmatched. He also holds the record for hitting 76 sixes in a single season. I remember having to retrieve these balls from Lowerhouse junior school, located across Liverpool road, every Monday morning. Azad was truly a remarkable player. Another player who went on to achieve great success was Ryan Harris, who joined our team in his mid-twenties before going on to represent Australia. Despite doubts that he may have missed his chance, we were able to revitalize him and he became one of the world’s top bowlers for three years with Australia.
Matthew Mott (1998) was an unexpected addition to the hall of fame, and he is currently the coach for England’s men’s white-ball team. According to Heaton, Mott was a great guy and while he was a focused and determined player on the field, he didn’t seem like the type to become a serious coach. However, Heaton and others are proud of his accomplishments and have fond memories of him.
The club has a talent for spotting players who possess unique qualities, such as Tony Dodemaide (1986), who later became the head of cricket at the MCC, chief executive of the Waca, and an Australia selector. Another example is Andrew McDonald (2005), who is currently the head coach of Australia’s men’s teams, and Harris, who is also a coach. Additionally, Lowerhouse has finally gained global recognition with Liberty Heap’s participation in the Women’s Under-19 World Cup, as her jersey is now displayed on the clubhouse wall.
The era of the Lancashire League attracting prominent players has diminished due to the current format of cricket, where it spans over a year, and the large amount of money involved. As top players now have lucrative contracts, they are not inclined to spend six months playing in the north-west of England. For instance, Mitchell Starc receives £2.35m from Kolkata Knight Riders and Harry Brook earns £380,000 from Delhi Capitals. In comparison, the £12,000-£15,000 that a club like Lowerhouse can offer becomes insignificant.
Despite a decline in attendance compared to its peak years, Lowerhouse still manages to draw in an impressive 800-1,000 spectators for their first XI game on a warm Friday night. This is thanks in part to the successful junior section implemented by Heaton and others in the 2000s, which has helped revitalize the club. Lowerhouse takes pride in the fact that their spectators are often members of the local community, whether it be their neighbor, coworker, or family member. This personal connection to the players on the team is what sets Lowerhouse apart from other teams who may prioritize individual success over community involvement.
Although they may not attract as much attention as the West Indian players in their prime, the significance of professionals in cricket remains unchanged. As Heaton emphasizes, professionals bring drive and motivation to the team. They are superior players who may even go on to play Test cricket or become the best in the world. Their presence brings an intense and knowledgeable energy, elevating the team’s performance. This can sometimes backfire, but initially it is a valuable asset. Additionally, when professionals are scoring fifties, hundreds, and taking wickets, it greatly benefits the team. The amateurs can then take their time to settle in and contribute to the game. This opportunity can also be beneficial for young professionals, as seen with last year’s pro Ruan de Swardt, who was recently selected for South Africa’s Test squad to tour New Zealand (although it was a second-string squad).
The Indian Premier League for 2024 will begin on March 23rd, with Lowerhouse’s first team playing against Rochdale on April 14th. There is something for everyone to look forward to.
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