Mike Gatting and the University Women's Cricket Team at the opening of the Cricket Centre

Cricketer Mike Gatting at the opening of the new indoor cricket centre, accompanied by Sarah Betterton, Charlotte Miles, Frances Low, Victoria Wise, Becky Williams and Nadia Charania from the University's women's cricket team.

Exeter opens first rate cricket centre for the South West

The glorious sound of leather on willow will be heard year round in the new technically advanced indoor cricket centre at the University of Exeter.

This first-rate facility will boost cricketing opportunities for Devon’s aspiring young cricketers, established players, clubs and teams as well as the University’s cricketers.

The long awaited Sir Christopher Ondaatje Devon Cricket Centre is an 800- square-metre facility, which boasts four indoor nets, four specialised bowling machines, indoor game space and a video analysis suite to assess player’s technique.

Phil Attwell, Director of Sport at the University of Exeter said, ‘Rain or shine, cricketers of all abilities will be able to work on their game in modern, purpose-built facilities.  The strong partnership of the University, Devon Cricket Board, and England and Wales Cricket Board has enabled the Centre to become a reality after four years of planning.’

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has provided £1.5 million funding towards the £2 million Centre in Exeter from the Club Community Development Programme. This comprises of Exchequer funding, which is administered by Sport England and additional funds generated by the ECB.  Further grants from affiliation groups have been offered by the Devon Cricket Board, The Lord’s Taverners, Marylebone Cricket Club and the Devon County Cricket Club.

Giles Clarke, Chairman of the ECB, said ‘This is an extremely exciting partnership and one that is certain to improve the quality of coaching available to young cricketers from across South West England. The numbers of people playing cricket across England and Wales is increasing year on year and top-class centres such as this one at the University of Exeter are vital if we are to ensure the continued growth of cricket across the Devon and Cornwall.'

Sir Christopher Ondaatje an Honorary Graduate of the University of Exeter and a benefactor, has generously donated £250,000 to the Centre, which is named in his honour.  He has a long association with the West Country.  Following his early departure from Sri Lanka, Sir Christopher completed most of his schooling at Blundells School in Tiverton and later became a life member of Somerset County Cricket Club, with which he developed the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Pavilion.  Sir Christopher’s philanthropy is made possible following a career of unparalleled excellence as a financier and publisher, an award winning author, an adventurer and Olympian.   He recognises the impact of sport, as his experience as a member of the Canadian Bobsleigh team shaped his life and continues to drive his interest in supporting sports organisations.

Sir Christopher said, ‘Throughout my life, I have had a passion for sport. I firmly believe sport helps to develop an individual’s confidence, an understanding of the importance and enjoyment of being part of a team and a love of competition.  I am delighted to support such an important development in Devon and at the University as cricket is of great interest to me and, as an honorary graduate of Exeter, I am pleased to have the opportunity to be involved.’

This new centre ensures that there is the chance for Devon cricketers to enjoy a truly great cricket experience without having to spend hours travelling, and without the experience of being compromised by poor facilities and insufficient coaching. 

Jim Wood Chair of the Devon Cricket Board recognises that this new venture will allow Devon and cricket in the South West to advance to the next level.  He said, ‘This will assure Devon’s reputation as the leading minor county, and act as a pathway for developing professional players of the future.  All our different agencies, clubs, coaches, officials and youth will benefit from this state-of-the-art centre for coaching, education for coaches and officials, club nights and indoor cricket.’  

Encouraging young people into the sport is a key concern for leading youth sports charity, The Lord’s Taverners, who believe that sport and recreation are vital for all young people. They have also contributed funds to the centre which they see as an opportunity for young people to access sport.  Matthew Patten, Chief Executive, The Lord’s Taverners said, ‘This new centre will provide vital facilities to promote cricket at all levels which is essential for the development of the game.’

Passionate cricket fans and former members of the University have provided money towards equipment.  Alumni John Wakely and Mr Stephen and Professor Jenny Harrow are supporting students through funding coaching and a special scholarship for a female cricket scholar.

The focus on ensuring that sports provision has a far reaching impact is reflected in the University’s approach to the development of the centre.  Phil Attwell continued, ‘Cricket has long been a focus sport for us, and as well as supporting the development of four test cricketers, we continue to compete and support players through to the professional game.  It is equally important to ensure sports provision is available to the community to ensure the widest possible benefit.’

Date: 6 July 2009