Stalwart ANDREW BARRETT tells Gavin Caney how he hasn’t let bowel disease stop him from playing cricket for North Runcton
Tell us about your earliest memories of cricket.
Travelling around the county as a kid watching my father (John, who played for Norfolk in the 1970s and 80s) play. I used to take my own bat, ball and stumps and play around the outside of the boundary with the other players’ kids. Before I started playing properly, I also scored for the first team. I was nicknamed ‘Wendy’ because, at the time, the BBC and England scorer was Wendy Wimbush.
Can you remember your first game and how long was it before you started playing regularly?
I played a game for Dersingham u17s when I was only 10. Back then, a lot of clubs only had one youth team.
Playing against people seven years older was quite daunting. I started playing second team cricket for Dersingham when I was 14, before moving into the first team when I was 17.
What is the appeal of playing cricket?
When you’re six years old, the thrill is purely smashing the ball as far as possible – annoying your parents in the process, especially when you start breaking windows!
As you get older, it’s the joy of being part of a team, the dressing room banter, that winning feeling, being able to socialise with players – and even umpires – after a game.
When the weather is favourable, a game of cricket is the quintessential backdrop to an English summer.
When did you join North Runcton and why have you stayed there so long? Have you ever been tempted to play elsewhere?
I started playing for Runcton in 2009. Even though I absolutely loved playing for Dersingham, the time was right to move on and play at a higher level.
Not once, however, in the last 10 years have I even considered moving on. Why would I want to go? Runcton have a superb set of lads, both on and off the field, and dedicated people, who work tirelessly behind the scenes, who are given little or no thanks.
Plus, I may be biased, but the ground is one of the best and most picturesque in the county; it’s right on my doorstep and the teas are spectacular.
Downham have often been a dominant force in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division. What’s the rivalry like between them, Stow and yourselves?
I’d be lying if I said the rivalry has always been a friendly one. That being said, however, there are numerous friendships between the teams.
Without doubt there is a lot of mutual respect, especially when you consider the achievements of Downham, in particular, over the past decade or so.
It’s fantastic for West Norfolk sport to have such a close set of rivals, plying their trade in the county’s premier division.
For the uninformed, explain how and why most clubs at your level have an overseas player and what they do on and off the pitch.
For most teams, the reason for having an overseas player is to help them reach the next level, which in our case is the East Anglian Premier League. Our current overseas player, Kirwin Christoffels, plays a huge part in the success and development of the club. Not only does he help boost the quality in our first XI, but he plays a pivotal role off the pitch. Day in, day out, he assists our excellent coaching team in developing many youth cricketers.
What a summer it has been for England. Do you think their World Cup glory can help boost declining participation figures at grassroots levels?
Cricket clubs, not just in Norfolk, but across the country are facing difficult times. Twenty years ago, Vauxhall Mallards were the best team not just in the county, but the whole region. I loved playing against them, it was the ultimate challenge.
To see any team dissolve, let alone Mallards, is such sad news. During this season, I’ve noticed several teams having to forfeit games. I wish I had a crystal ball to show how to boost participation.
England’s glorious World Cup win will no doubt help boost numbers and interest in the short term, whether that lasts five years is another matter.
You were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, in 2013. Please tell us a bit about the condition and how it’s impacted on your cricket.
Ulcerative colitis (together with Crohn’s disease) affects more than 300,000 people in the UK alone. There is currently no known cure and it is a largely hidden disease but one that causes stigma, fear and isolation, due to its symptoms.
When I was diagnosed, I knew very little about the disease and how it impacts someone’s life. I only really heard about it because of Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher having the same condition.
For about a year, it had a big impact on my life, which included stepping down as Runcton’s first team captain, a role I thoroughly enjoyed. I was physically unable to play cricket. Thankfully, after being admitted to hospital for two weeks and trialling numerous drugs – some of which had quite bad side-effects – for the past few years I’ve been able to resume a normal life, which has allowed me the ability to play and enjoy cricket again.
Finally, Runcton are right in the thick of the title race with six games to go. Are you talking about the title?
It’s no secret, winning the league was our main goal going into the season. While every club has to aim high, everyone truly believes that we are capable of achieving this.
We are currently joint top, which shows that we are indeed capable. That being said, while it is a cliché, everyone is just taking things one game at a time.
We cannot afford to look too far ahead. The camaraderie and team spirit within our club is one of the best I’ve been involved with. Everybody plays their part and it’s a club I’m proud to be a part of.
The facts are…
Name: Andrew Barrett
Date of birth: 27/03/1982
Birth place: King’s Lynn
Grew up in: Dersingham
Secondary school: Smithdon
University of Northampton
Current club: North Runcton
Former club: Dersingham
Sporting hero: Tom Bunting – never really had a hero growing up so right now, football wise as a Norwich fan, I’d say Teemu Pukki
• Andrew’s highest score is 143 not out, achieved in a 316-run
partnership for Dersingham with Darren Bunn, coincidentally against Runcton.
• A quote which recently featured in the Daily Mail from Princess Diana’s mother, Frances Shand Kydd, said the day Diana was born the Sandringham cricket team were playing outside their house. Just as she was delivered, an enormous roar went up as a player scored a century. The man was Andrew’s grandad Arthur.
• Every six weeks, Andrew travels to hospital to get treatment for ulcerative colitis. It involves a long infusion.
Restaurant or takeaway?
Night in or night out?
Bath or shower?
Tea or coffee?
Sweet or savoury?
Summer or winter?
Day or night?
Cinema or theatre?
Favourite food: Steak
Least favourite: Tomatoes/marzipan/vinegar
Favourite TV programme: Phoenix Nights
Favourite band: James Least favourite: None
Back to the Future
Least favourite: None
Answers in italics