Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world with an estimate 2.5 billion active followings of the game around the world.
Despite it’s growing popularity many countries seldom get support from the ICC to develop proper cricketing structures to able to play at a competitve international level.
One man has made it his mission to identify and help these smaller nations to develop and establish cricketing structures.Through his organization Twenty20 cricket company,he has been able to help countries in Africa,Europe and Central America to start up cricket.
Today I have the pleasure to chat with The Guardian Darren Talbot.
Hi, Darren tell us a little about yourself?
I am Managing Director of UK based Twenty20 Community Cricket Ltd and it’s international partner Twenty20 Cricket Company Ltd.
I am also CEO of the England Cricket Association for the Deaf Charity, who I have been working with for 6 years.
I was Iceland Head Coach for 4 years up to November 2019 and I am now working with Sierra Leone on their high-performance programme.
How did you get your start in cricket?
I played from a very early age, in the back garden from about 2/3 years old until I played my first game for school age 9.
Who was your inspiration growing up?
My dad was the one who got me into cricket. He, and my mum, spent hours playing in the garden with me and we’d go to games and watch the Sunday League Cricket on the television which was very popular in the UK in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
You are the CEO of the Deaf Cricket of England, tell us a little more about that?
I was introduced to the idea of Deaf and Cricket together by a good friend of mine, John Matthews, who has a Deaf daughter. He is a level 2 qualified BSL user and level 2 qualified cricket coach and wanted to bring the two together, which I felt was an exciting idea. We ran a few short courses for local Deaf children together and then met up with ECAD (England Cricket Association for the Deaf) committee member and now chairman, Mike O’Mahony. With 6 months I had created the first county Deaf team – Surrey – and ended up ECAD Lions Manager as the previous incumbent had left and they weren’t overrun with volunteers. That was getting on for 7 years ago and since then I have also worked on the development, increasing the player base from 80 to 350 and we now have other county teams. We were also launching our new regional teams this summer but so far Coronavirus has delayed that. The ECB runs the England Deaf team and, more recently taken on the Lions team too and I am ECB National Deaf Cricket Pathway manager to bridge the gap between the two.
Besides working with the Deaf Cricket you were Headcoach of Iceland tell us about your experiences there?
That was a great experience I wouldn’t take back and in fact, I’d love to coach another similar nation again. I was invited out to coach in Reykjavik which I gladly accepted so I could also get to visit the country. What I found there was a small but talented group of cricketers with the potential to surprise other larger more developed nations. In their first, and only to date, 50 overs international match, we beat Switzerland but what was reported to be the largest margin by a debut country ever. Last October we went out to Malta for our first T20 tournament, played under ICC rules, and despite losing all 4 matches did very well. Dropping 12 out of 23 catches was, unfortunately, our downfall otherwise I am sure we would have won 1 or 2 games. It’s a great country with some great cricketers and I am really hopeful we will see them on the international scene again. After the tournament, they took the disappointing decision to take a step back which is why we decided I should step down plus I think I had taken them as far as I could go under the current set-up.
You have supported many smaller nations with your organization Twenty20 cricket community tell us about that?
I grew up with a strong love of Europe. We holidayed there, mostly in northern Europe and I loved languages at school.
Taking French & German A-Levels, so when we started the business, seeing if we could develop cricket in Europe seemed an obvious opportunity. We initially worked in Germany, who have developed beyond recognition over the past few years, and took in a number of other countries, including playing in and co-running the Vienna Wintercup for the past 9 years and working with native team Warsaw Hussars from Poland. We have also been coaching the Swiss national junior teams for nearly a decade and we are in Switzerland for around 30 days each year. I have coached in (now North) Macedonia and last year helped to set up the Moldovan Cricket Association in my short trip over there.
For many years now I have also been working with African nations. We have been supporting Kent CC in Sierra Leone for a long time and more recently started working with the Ivory Coast and Liberia where we have been advising on their development and collecting clothing and equipment for them to send back home. It’s been brilliant to watch how they have all developed and in the next 10 years some of these countries are going to be huge cricketing nations if they receive the right support.
Most recently we’ve been working with Guatemala and we hope to help them arrange a tour to the UK soon.
How do you identify which country to support?
That’s a great question. I think my answer would be, one where we can make a difference. In everything we do whether it’s in the UK or overseas, our business is built up making a difference. In the UK we focus on state schools and providing promising young cricketers with the chance to play more and better cricket and of course, Deaf Cricket speaks for itself. If we can help anyone and make a difference in their lives, we’ll find the time to do it.
What is your greatest cricketing memory?
The one that sticks out the most was playing at the Oval for Surrey Young Cricketers when I was an 18/19 year old. I played there twice and it was probably the pinnacle of my playing career as well as playing for the Duchess of Norfolk’s XI against the MCC at Arundel around the same time. From a coaching perspective, Iceland beating Switzerland was an amazing feeling and the culmination of 3 years work to create a tight-knit team from a group of ex-pats from many different nations.
How do you define success?
A happy face. Success is too often defined by winning. At the levels we work out, success is more people playing more cricket more often in teams and most importantly – really enjoying themselves and wanting to do it for many years to come whether they are in the UK or anywhere in the world.