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Cricket stars open new centre in Greenford

Cricket stars past and present helped to open an exciting new sports centre at a Greenford school today (Tuesday, 26 April) that will offer first-class cricket facilities to the whole community.

The Wilf Slack Cricket Centre opened at William Perkin High School, in Oldfield Lane North (which has always had a strong focus on sport and the arts), to bring to fruition a seven-year project to help develop the next generation of cricketing stars.

It has been brought about through a partnership with Middlesex County Cricket Club, and boasts four indoor lanes, video technology and analysis, bowling machines, a coaching suite, gym facilities, and plenty more besides.

The centre aims to provide opportunities to members of the local community, local clubs and schools; as well as providing a base for Middlesex Cricket’s Women and Girls and Disability squads; and a home for Middlesex’s Participation Team, which runs cricket programmes to encourage under-represented parts of the community to get involved in the game.

It is named after the Middlesex cricketing great Wilf Slack, who died in 1989 at the age of just 34, having played such an important role in one of the club’s most successful trophy-winning decades on the field.

As a player Wilf had a passion for developing young cricketers and was a role model for many young black cricketers of his generation.

Past and present stars

Today, past Middlesex and England captain Mike Gatting was at the opening ceremony – along with
former professional player Saj Mahmood, who represented Lancashire and England, and is now the head of the school’s cricket department. You can hear both their views on the new centre in the video above, which was produced by Middlesex Cricket.

They were joined at the centre today by England and Middlesex bowling legend Angus Fraser and current first team player Robbie White, who grew up in the borough and is a wicketkeeper-batter.

The project was carried out thanks to funding from a number of sources, including the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Sport England, Middlesex Cricket, and the Wilf Slack Young Cricketers Development Trust, and support from Ealing Council.

‘A real community hub – a centre of excellence’

It was steered by former headteacher at William Perkin High, Keir Smith, who is now headteacher of Ada Lovelace High, another of the Twyford Church of England Academies Trust schools within the borough.

He said: “The opening of the Wilf Slack Cricket Centre is a special moment for the communities it will serve. Cricket is England’s summer sport, and the community spirit, teamwork, togetherness, and friendships that the game can create should never be overlooked.

“As a state school, we are extremely proud to be able to offer a first-class cricket facility that rivals anything else in the area, even in the private school sector, and we want this centre to be a shining example of what can be done in state schools with the right vision and the right partners in place.
Our vision is for the centre to become a real community hub – a centre of excellence for the development of the next generation of cricketers and, in partnership with Middlesex Cricket, we look forward to the Wilf Slack Cricket Centre playing a leading role in this aim.”

‘Head and shoulders above anything else’

Katie Berry, Middlesex Cricket’s director of participation, said: “As a facility, the Wilf Slack Cricket Centre stands head and shoulders above anything else in the county. The term ‘state-of-the-art’ was made for this facility and, with the shared vision we have with the team at Twyford CofE Academies Trust, we know that this centre will become a vital hub for the local community.”

She added: “As well as driving additional benefits to the local community, Middlesex Cricket is extremely fortunate to be able to use the facility ourselves, and to be delivering our participation programmes in such an inspiring venue, as well as using it as a training base for a number of our representative squads, is amazing.”

Photo of Lord’s cricket ball © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5

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